He’s manning a garage sale, carefully counting out dollar bills and quarters, and it all seems rather ordinary… except he also signs autographs for the visitors. “Bud Grant. HOF ’94,” he writes. Over and over again. On a worn leather football. The rod of a fishing pole. An old game program.
Harry “Bud” Grant will forever be known as one of the top coaches in NFL history, and many remember him as the straight-faced coach who soldiered the sidelines and held players to an exceptionally high standard of conduct.
“I wasn’t that tough,” Grant tells me. “I don’t think so. I suppose you’d have to ask the other players or coaches – I can’t answer that question. We had rules, but it was an easy job, really.”
He breaks his signature stoic expression for a split second, just long enough for me to question his sincerity. I prod a bit, ask him about the no-heaters rule he implemented during winter games.
“We had no indoor practice facilities in those days. We had to practice outside, so why not play outside?” He answers matter-of-factly. “We became acclimated, learned to play with no gloves, no heater, no underwear […] so Sunday was easy for us. It was tougher for other teams that wanted to come in and wanted to be warm. We were cold, but we still played.”
For Grant, it’s all about practicality.
Case in point, you may not know that the former coach stands alone as the only man to ever play in both the NBA and the NFL. In fact, Grant won the first championship in NBA history with the Minneapolis Lakers. He left the Lakers, however, to join the Philadelphia Eagles as a defensive end. The decision proved a no-brainer.
“The bottom line was that I could make more money playing football than I could playing basketball,” he explains.
Grant viewed sports—playing or coaching—as just a job, a way to make one’s living, not concerning himself with the spotlight or the fame. For an icon like Grant, media requests are not uncommon, although he says they now come very few and far between. League reps and cable stations hounded the coach for appearances shortly after his career, asking him to audition for game-day commentary and halftime interviews.
“I figured out it would be like 24 road trips,” he says, scoffing. “I’m out of this to stay home, not to get on the road again. My ego didn’t need it.”
Eventually, people just stopped trying.