What does Michigan's Lloyd Carr miss most about coaching? Relationships, winning

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, even after retiring following the 2007 season, his 13th as head coach, is often asked what he misses about coaching.

Carr shared his response while surrounded by a number of former Michigan players and staff — members of the Football Alumni of Michigan (FAM) — during a Tuesday morning breakfast at Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Carr and wife, Laurie, are moving to South Carolina.

Former Michigan head football coach Lloyd Carr acknowledges those in attendance Tuesday at Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor.

He was presented by FAM, which is making a strong push to build membership and become an all-encompassing organization for those who have played or worked for the Michigan football program, a plaque highlighting his 27 years with the program.

“They ask me, ‘Well what do you miss?’” Carr told the gathering. “I miss the players, and I miss the relationships."

Carr also said he misses the winning, and sharing that elation with his team.

“There is nothing like going into that locker room where just you and your teammates and coaches celebrate just for a few minutes, and we sing (The Victors),” he said. “I’ll always miss that.”

He spoke briefly to the group, but had them laughing.

“I’ll tell you one story,” Carr said, pausing. “Maybe I shouldn’t.

“When I was interim coach, (former Michigan athletic director) Joe Roberson came and said, ‘Lloyd, you’ve got to win this week. We’re playing Purdue. You win this game, we’re going to make you the head coach,’” Carr said, drawing laughs. “How’s that for pressure? It wasn’t like I’m playing.”

Michigan won that game played in horrendous weather conditions, and Carr became head coach.

“Interim off a 5-0 victory over Purdue?” two-time Michigan captain and offensive lineman Jon Jansen said, laughing. “What the hell?”

Former Michigan defensive lineman Mike Martin is chairman of the Football Alumni of Michigan, and is working to build membership with a large database. Martin is passionate about the Teammate Assistance Program (TAP) to create resources and networking for former players.

Martin is working to schedule events like the breakfast for Carr to build the group and camaraderie. Carr said FAM is about continuing the teamwork that has always been so important.

“One of the things that always impressed me when I first came to Michigan was that the outpouring of spirit and energy and enthusiasm for the new guys. They embraced you,” Carr said. “That’s what this is all about. I’m often asked, ‘Do you miss it?’ or ‘What’s the thing you miss the most?’ I can tell you this as a coach, any coach who’s been at Michigan, they know how lucky they are to be in this program and to have the opportunity to go out on the field and go in the stadiums all across this country and represent this great university.

“You warmed my heart today, because you’re special. They ask me, ‘Well what do you miss?’ I said, ‘I miss the players, and I miss the relationships.’ Many of you played for Coach (Bo) Schembechler. You’ve had opportunities in your life because of lessons you learned from him, I learned from him. That’s why I think this is a great thing you’re doing bringing everybody together, because when you come together as a team, you can’t be stopped, not if you’re at Michigan.”

Several spoke their appreciation for Carr.

“When we were recruited, when we were players, you were somebody that we could look up to as a coach but for some of us, as a father, at times as a friend but always somebody we could come to with whatever we needed,” Jansen said. “There have been so many times in my life where I have been in a situation where I think to myself, ‘What would Coach Carr say? What would he do?’ and it’s always helped me through those times whether I could talk to you or not, that little voice in my head that always said, ‘If you’re afraid on the sideline come stand by me.”

The group laughed heartily, and there were knowing nods.

Jarrett Irons, a two-time captain and former linebacker, remembered that 1995 season when Carr was elevated to head coach. Two years later he would lead the Wolverines to an unbeaten season and a national championship.

“I remember when you were interim and we had numerous conversations about it and knew that we needed a leader of Michigan in the next head coach,” Irons said. “When that happened, it was the best thing for us.”

There have been three coaches since Carr retired: Rich Rodriguez, Brady Hoke, and Jim Harbaugh, now in his fifth season. One of the goals of FAM is to bridge the players of every coaching era.

“At some point there was Bo’s guys, there were Lloyd’s guys, there were Rich’s guys, there were Brady’s guys, and we want to make sure that line is always blurred or there is no line,” Jansen said. “That it’s not who you played for, it’s the school you played for. It’s the family of football players, so it doesn’t matter who your head coach was, we want guys to be involved. We want them to know if they need a resource.”

Martin said 20 former players signed up in the past week and the group is now in the “high 200s." There are two tailgate areas at home games for the players, and Martin is planning other events like the breakfast for Carr. He said having a strong organization of former players can only help younger players who are thinking about coming to Michigan.

“This school’s going to change your life because of the people you’re going to interact with,” Martin said. “Well, what does that look like as a young guy? When you’re in high school, you hear that but, OK, what does that mean? When you see it, you see guys like myself, Jon, everyone come back and have these real relationships with each other, and as a young guy you see that, you witness it, it gives you a tangible idea of like, ‘Oh, that’s damn cool. That’s really cool these guys are around and they’re a part of this program and this is a real family.’ That’s what we want to represent. It’s something these guys deserve, that former players deserve to come back and be a part of their program.”


Twitter: @chengelis