John Harbaugh on Jim: Great competitor, great khakis

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

John Harbaugh has won a Super Bowl as coach of the Baltimore Ravens, beating his brother, Jim, then the San Francisco coach, but fans still confuse him with his younger brother.

During a MMQB Podcast with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King last week, John Harbaugh was asked how his life has changed the last 10 years.

“Ten years ago nobody knew who I was, or they knew who I was but they were sure I was Jim Harbaugh,” John said laughing.

King pointed out that while they look like brothers, they are very different in appearance.

“No, no he’s taller and everything and much better looking if you ask him, of course,” John said. “Actually people still think I’m Jim Harbaugh. I get a lot of Michigan fans coming up. ‘We love you, Coach.’ I think ‘OK, I’ll take that. Give me a hug.’ ”

John Harbaugh doesn’t wear the Jim Harbaugh uniform of khakis and long-sleeve shirt.

Brother John on Jim Harbaugh: ‘That is who he is’

“Nobody wears khakis like Jim,” John said. “He’s gotten away from the Walmart khakis. He’s into the Lululemons now and Tommy Bahamas, so he’s upgrading his khaki quality.”

The competitiveness between the brothers was there from the time they were kids. They faced each other in the 2013 Super Bowl, but it goes far beyond that.

King asked for a recent story that exhibits that competitiveness between the brothers, who are now in their 50s.

“No one is more competitive (than Jim),” John Harbaugh said on the podcast. “He’s got a bunch of kids now, young kids. He and Sarah are putting their family together. He just had another baby, John Paul, who I’m the godfather and (younger sister) Joani is the godmother. As a matter of fact, John’s gonna get baptized in Rome in a couple of weeks when they make the trip. I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it because it’s the same weekend as the draft. We’ll get Joani out there

“So we did do last Memorial Day, we did a vacation together. My wife and I have a little cottage up in northern Michigan on Lake Huron. We get Jim to drive up with the kids. We have a basketball hoop in the front yard in the driveway. We were going to play a little game with the kids. We just started shooting around. Next thing you know it was a four-on-four game. It was (Jim’s kids) Jack, who is 21/2; it was Addy, who’s 6; it was Katie who was 41/2, 5 at the time; it was (John’s daughter) Allison who was 13, 14, and she’s a little basketball player; it’s Jim and me and Sarah and Ingrid, my wife.

“We’re playing. You can picture the kind of game it is, right. Allison hit a couple jumpers, we’re playing to seven and we’re up maybe 5-1. Next thing you know, Jim starts going over the top of Allison for rebounds and put-backs. He’s boxing her out 10 feet away from the basket. Next thing you know it’s 5-5, and Jim has made all the shots for his team, of course. I’m like, ‘Maybe Addy would like to touch the ball. Maybe Katie or Jack could dribble a little bit here now and then.’ It goes 6-6, long rebound comes off the side, he goes and gets it. I see Allison happens to be over there. So I see him going to the basket. He’s going to take Allison to the hole. He’s about 235, 6-31/2, so I’m going to try to cut him off. I get across my right arm across his chest. I’m trying to body check him into the boards, into the pricker bushes over there behind the driveway, and he just powers his way into the basket and lays one over the top, a reverse layup off the board. All he could talk about, ‘How we won, how we won.’ He picks up Jack and goes, ‘Doesn’t it feel great Jack to win? Doesn’t it feel great to win?’ ”

The brothers crossed paths about an hour later on the porch.

“(He) looks me right in the eye and says, ‘Hey, John have you won anything yet?’ ” John said, laughing.

King then pointed out that John Harbaugh could have used the moment to mention the Super Bowl victory.

“I kind of looked him in the eye, (and) I felt like that was an unspoken communication,” John said. “I didn’t feel I need to say that in the moment. I tried to take the high road.”

Here are a few other highlights from the podcast:

■ John Harbaugh on how he celebrated the Super Bowl after beating his brother. He said he had envisioned the joy of the moment and throwing up his arms, but…: “All I could think about it, ‘Man, I’ve got to shake my brother’s hand.’ I got over there and stuck my hand out and wanted to give him a hug and he’s looking me in the eye and saying, ‘There will be no hug. There’ll be no hug here.’ You can understand it. Half our family wasn’t at the Super Bowl victory party for the Ravens, which was kinda weird, but also completely understandable. Like my mom said later, ‘You can only be as happy as your unhappiest child.’ You can relate to that. We still enjoyed it. He did win the last pickup basketball game. Just ask him, he’ll tell ya.”

■ John Harbaugh on whether he’s ever asked Tom Brady when he’s going to retire: “I’ve asked him that, as a matter of fact. He said never. He may be right. He may never retire. I’ve said it and my brother has said it, he’s the greatest quarterback ever to play the game, there’s no doubt about it. And by extension, you probably have to say the greatest player to ever play the game.”

■ With Brady a Michigan alum and Jim the Michigan coach, John Harbaugh on whether he’s had the opportunity to interact with Brady at a Michigan function: “Last year they had that Signing with the Stars, the first one ever, and we were both there. We happened to fly back and my daughter was on the plane with us and we had about a two-hour conversation, and he was phenomenally great. I just asked him a simple question along the lines of, what makes you who you are in terms of a competitor. It was kind of for Allison, because Allison heard the whole thing. He went through his whole history from high school to college and what motivates him and what were the events in his life that focused him in on his competitiveness and how he goes about every single day. He’s a super competitor. I appreciated it. They dropped him off first and they took us to Baltimore next. We got off the plane so I said to Allison when we got back on, I said, ‘What did you think?’ And she said, ‘Well Tom was really nice.’ I’m like, ‘Tommmm?’ She goes, ‘He said to call him Tom.’ I said, ‘Well OK, that’s OK, but next time it’s Mr. Brady.’ ”