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Parasiliti: Price was right at Musselman for four decades

December 23, 2012
  • Bob Parasiliti
Joe Crocetta

Football coaches are a lot smarter than most people think.

Like most stereotypes, they are usually defined more by mannerisms and characteristics than fiber.

In most comedic circles, a football coach wears ball caps and a whistle nearly 24/7 and talks very loudly, spewing comments about hitting people and winning.

When it comes to clichés, they fall second only to sportswriters.

But then there are guys like Denny Price. In his own kind of subtle way, the Musselman football coach broke that mold over four decades on the job.

He’s not exactly Socrates in coaching shorts, but he had life as a football coach figured out.

Throughout his career at Musselman, Price has changed with one twist.

He stayed exactly the same person he was when he walked through the doors of the South Berkeley County school for the first time in the 1970s — the building in Bunker Hill, W.Va., not the new digs across the city line in Inwood, W.Va.

Football coaches seem always to be labeled as rigid, demanding and unyielding.

A lot of that goes with the job, especially when the job is getting a group of 35 to 100 males pointed in one direction with focus and discipline in unison to achieve perfection.

That’s just the game on the field. In the old days, that was enough.

Nowadays, football coaches — especially on the high school level — wear more hats than the one with the school’s initials on the front. They are administrators, psychologists and patriarchs of extended families — and everything else in between.

Price may have known that all along, but he may have actually admitted such a renaissance for the first time as he retired as the coach of the Applemen on Thursday in the school’s library.

“Over the years, I’ve had to make subtle changes to the offense and switched the way we did things, but it all stays the same,” Price said, before making his farewell remarks to about 75 friends, fans and well-wishers, which included former colleagues and media members.

“We adjusted to the kids with the style we played, but we still ran a lot of the same plays. We kept going to the things that worked.”

Over his 40 seasons with the Applemen, Price rolled with the punches, chose to go with the flow and took on situations as they arose.

And he did it with the deftness of a tailback making a cutback move.

He tweaked his style to fit the times and the players he guided. He went from a coach of a Class A school to one that is playing on the Class AAA level. And he did it — for the most part — while maintaining the level of success Musselman had grown accustomed to over the years.

Price was able to stay true to himself while staying with the times.

He wore the same clothes, just a little more starched and pressed than before.

“When you are a young coach, it’s all about winning,” Price said. “As I progressed, it became about seeing young kids develop. At my age, it’s not all about winning. It’s about relationships. Being around people keeps you young.”

In his “youth,” Price managed to win 274 of 435 games with one tie — a 63 percent winning percentage — and three state championships (1974, ’82 and ’95).

Personally, I’ve known Price for the last 30 years of his journey and he was everything he admitted.

In the early stages, he was a gruff taskmaster who demanded compliance of his players. Players like Charles “Beetle” Robinson, Dave Linton and Alan Fiddler responded to become stars in that system.

As times changed, so did Price. He became an “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” guy and opened up the game to make it a little more fun for the players. But in reality, it was still his Wing T-styled attack wearing skateboard shoes as belly and buck sweeps remained prevalent.

And then, there was the trademark defense.

All along the way, Musselman remained a feared destination on most teams’ schedules. Price helped put Inwood on the map with an indelible mark.

In the paraphrased words of Billy Joel, Price didn’t go changing just to please anyone. He never let anyone down before. He took the good times and the bad times …

He stayed just the way he had always been — his winning self.

That ability made Denny Price a smart football coach and an even smarter person.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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