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  Turner, Casserly Remember Cooke

By Bryan Tucker
WashingtonPost.com Correspondent
Monday, April 7, 1997

Redskins Coach Norv Turner
Q: Has it sunk in?
A: Well, I watched TV like you guys last night, and a lot of people described it. There is a man who has been ill, he's 84 years old, and it is still a shock to you when you get the news. I don't know when it sinks in, how it sinks in. It will probably sink in for me when we go out and start practicing and that feeling of hoping he will be there. I talked to him Saturday and that's one thing he talked about was getting better.

Most of the guys have had an opportunity to be around him and the word spreads and I know it will have an impact on our football team. I know it will have an impact on me.

Q: Does anything change this offseason or do just go to John Kent Cooke?
That's a good question and that's what we see it working and moving on. But time will determine that but that's how we envision it.

Each time I visited or had an opportunity to talk to Mr. Cooke, we would have a session [and] talk about players. I can't think a time I didn't walk away from him without an inspiration, thought or idea something came out of it. His vast knowledge and vast experience of dealing with people as much as dealing with athletics. He had this unique ability to evaluate people and all those things. We worked hard to make the progress we made and we're back to the point [of] going into a new stadium. I think we are going to be a very good football team. From my standpoint, I would love for him to sit in the stadium and watch us play.

Q: Have you ever been around someone with that charisma?
I've never been around anyone with the presence of Jack Kent Cooke. Some people attribute that to wealth and age. I imagined if I met Mr. Cooke 50 years ago I would be struck by the same presence. You don't acquire that over a period of time. To me, that is a big factor to the success he's had in his entire life in whatever he chose to be involved in.

Q: Do you think the stadium should be named after him?
I would love to see that. Obviously a lot of things go into it and I'm not the guy who makes that decision. I watched TV last night I think most fans would like to see that... Hopefully, that is what will happen.

Q: Were you worried about Mr. Cooke's support during your first season?

A: I kind of smirk to myself when Coach Gibbs was 0-5 because I was 3-13. There's a little difference. I appreciate and will always [his support]. . . . He is so experienced and been involved with so many different situations, he knew what we were dealing with and what we were going through and he continuously created an environment for me to be successful. When we seemed to struggle at our worst, he came out and was the strongest and supported me. It has an effect of everyone around you and it gives you the best chance to be successful.

What I think was lost at times with Mr. Cooke is people wanted to talk about what he was involved in and his corporations. You can't replace his experience in athletics. You go back through his biography, Sparky Anderson or people he's been involved with I don't know how many years it was his life. That experience, you don't get that experience in a short period of time. You don't acquire that when you automatically acquire an organization and that's the advantage he had over most people involved in this business.

Q: [Talk about the] disappointment about how long it took to build that stadium and how only in five months it would have opened and he doesn't quite make it after the long time that it took to get that done.
A: I do know this with visiting him over the last three months, and that's why he went to the stadium on a regular basis and that's why he went out Saturday morning. The thrill of watching that stadium go up, the thrill of knowing that he was building that stadium was very special to him.

Q: Since you talked to him regularly did you feel he was improving.
A: There's no question about that. Every time I talked to him he would tell me how far he was walking in terms of exercising. I was under the impression he was improving.

Q: Any favorite stories with Mr. Cooke?
A: I got a lot of favorite stories, I'm not going to tell you any of them [laughter]. That's another thing: I have two children and they were old enough to appreciate Mr. Cooke within shouting distance of him and heard him when he got excited.
Q: Any particular talk with Mr. Cooke that stands out in your mind?
A: Probably the one that had the most impact was after our opening loss against Philadelphia, we played poorly. He was, like I was, disappointed and upset. That's probably what I'll remember the most.

General Manager Charley Casserly
I was fortunate to work with him closely for 15 years since 1982. I think the things that you loved about him was that he was always there. Here's a guy who was a millionaire and ran a number of businesses, and the guy was there 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. If you had a question you could call him. If you had a problem you could call him and didn't make any difference if was at 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock, seven in the morning. The great thing about him was he was always there when you needed him; you didn't have to wait and that was essential.

Another thing that strikes you is a lot of people want to win — there's a lot of people who spend money to win — but not many people knew how to win. I think that was one of the great things: he knew how to win. . .Another great thing was he challenged you, he challenged you every time you talked to him. You had to accept that as a challenge but that is a positive — don't miss that. I always felt when you got off the phone with him you learned something. Was he tough? We all knew he was tough but more importantly he was fair and that's what I remember the guy was fair. He had a technique he would use he might have used it with you guys, it caught me by surprise the first time. Say you talked to him about a player you were going to sign, he'd ask you about the player and how he would fit in and then he'd call you back the next day and ask you the same question. He'd ask you the same question the next day. In the beginning, you would think he didn't remember, but he was challenging you, he wanted to know what exactly your conviction on this player. What was your conviction on this move and how thoroughly had you thought it out, this is how he was successful because this is how he operated when he made those decisions and that was good. As regards to John Kent Cooke, he has been involved to day-to-day operations of this team since 1981. Since I've been general manager, he has been involved in every major decision that has been made here. John's personality — in case you don't know him — is not one to seek the limelight or seek credit for things that's his personality. John deserves a lot of credit for the success we've had he's just never chose to take it. I don't think anyone is going to notice a difference in how the organization is run. We're certainly well-prepared and once we get through this period of grief here were going to be rolling and going.

The stadium was the pride and joy of Jack Kent Cooke. Someone asked me if it was going to be the last great thing he did and if you guys knew him there was going to be something else great after the stadium he just hadn't figured it out yet. I think [the stadium] was the driving force during the last few years I think it kept him going and young. He could have moved this football team. He didn't move this football team. I don't think he ever got the credit for that but he'll get it now that he is gone. He said it was going be here for the fans and we should be thankful for that.

Q: What about the name of the stadium?
I think that is going to be a family decision and I think regardless of whatever the name is it is going to be Jack Kent Cooke Stadium — we all know that.

Q: How will his death affect the players?
I think most of the players here never met Mr. Cooke. He had a philosophy he was never going to get close to a player. He was going to like them, he loved them all, some of them he knew better than others. They were all his favorites, I know that. I sat next to him at all those practices and games so I know a lot more about him than most people. That was his philosophy: 'I'm not going to get close to them, it's not right.' Because that would interfere in the decision-making process and he wouldn't allow that. I think it is going to have an effect; it just has to have an effect when we open without him being a part of opening day.

I think this was a guy who meant so much to this franchise. And I think this franchise will not miss a beat thanks to John Cooke. But I think the man's legacy, certainly the physical legacy will be stadium, the legacy of the Redskins of being a class organization. That's one thing I think people look and say that is a class organization and why it is a class organization it had a class owner.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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