Gary Pinkel dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Thursday to discuss his life, career, and book, The 100-Yard Journey: A Life in Coaching and Battling for the Win.
Pinkel, 65, is one of the best – and perhaps most underrated – coaches of his generation. He won at every stop, including Missouri, which won exactly three games in six of 10 seasons prior to his 2001 arrival.
“People always talked about what a great job Missouri should be, but just for whatever (reason), it wasn’t – and I had so many people tell me, ‘Don’t do it,’” Pinkel said on The DA Show. “I trusted Mike Alden, our athletic director. I told him, ‘I’m going need someone to stand up instead of keep firing guys. My program is going to work. It’s worked everywhere it’s been. But I’m going to need time.’”
Pinkel went 4-7 in his first season and 5-7 in his second.
“It was harder than I thought it was going to be because you had to change a culture,” he said. “They’re all great kids. I’m so thankful for those kids that battled through those first four years with us as we started changing all these things.”
In 2007, Missouri went 12-2. In fact, the Tigers won 10+ games five times from 2007-14 and finished the season ranked in the top five on two occasions – first in 2007, and again in 2013.
Pinkel described that run as “pretty cool.” Whatever it was, it wasn’t surprising. After all, Pinkel has been named Coach of the Year in multiple conferences.
“It’s not about Gary Pinkel. That’s a stamp for your football program,” he said. “For all the people that said, ‘Don’t do it,’ we (almost played) in the national-championship game. If we beat Auburn (in 2013), if we beat Oklahoma (in 2007), we’re in the championship game. Now we didn’t do it. I’m responsible for that. We didn’t get that done. But don’t say you can’t do it at Missouri – because we did it.”
Sadly, Pinkel was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and retired in 2015. If not for that diagnosis, he would still be coaching.
“Oh yeah, no question,” Pinkel said. “I don’t know what would have gotten me out of it. I’d be coaching for sure.”