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Not Just Passing Through : After Coaching Odyssey, Coury Joins Rams

March 20, 1986|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

It would seem curious to some that a man of his senses would one day leave his home of 20 years in favor of a life style best suited for Johnny Appleseed.

In fact, so firmly were Dick Coury's roots planted in Orange County back in 1972 that it would take nearly the strength of all his seven children to wrench his feet from Santa Ana soil.

Dick Coury, celebrated football coach at Mater Dei High School, USC and Cal State Fullerton, was a fixture in the county--much like the berry farm on Beach Boulevard.

He had neatly assembled and attached a little white bow to a niche that included a loving wife, seven kids, a sensible mortgage payment and the life of Riley.

So then, of course, he left.

For however cozy age 42 sounded when it rolled off his lips, it wasn't enough for Coury to sit back on an IRA account while counting the days till 65.

Coury decided to shoot the moon. He wanted to become a head coach in the National Football League, and knew you didn't get there by sorting out budget problems of the Cal State Fullertons of the world.

So off he went, to faraway lands and leagues, filling in his resume along the way. There were layovers in Denver, Philadelphia, Portland, Boston and New Orleans.

He was a head coach for the Portland Storm of the old World Football League and then for the Transcontinental (Boston-New Orleans-Portland) Breakers of the United States Football League. The term "meeting payroll" suddenly would take on new meaning. In the alphabet soup leagues, it wasn't shocking to shake hands with an owner only to have him return someday to borrow money for a soda.

For the Coury family, it was a 14-year odyssey filled with escrow closings and U-Haul bills.

So, when the Portland Bank-Breakers of the USFL quit paying him and his team last summer, Coury decided to come home.

A few weeks ago, the Rams hired him as their quarterback coach, hoping he'll mean to the position what Red Adair did to oil fires.

Coury says it's nice to be back.

"My wife says there's only one cause for divorce, and that's if I join another new football league," Coury said.

As for that NFL head coaching job, well . . .

"If I couldn't be a head coach, then this is the best thing that could have happened," Coury, 56, said. "I've always wanted to be a head coach. I still have that aspiration. That's what I want to do some day. But if you can choose a place to be an assistant, it would be for the Rams."

The Courys have returned to Orange County and say they'll keep a home here no matter what happens next.

The pain of being again overlooked for a head NFL coaching job doesn't show in Coury's face.

"They're awfully hard to get," Coury said. "I've been close two times. To land one, you have to be pretty fortunate. Heck, there are only 28 of them. This year, there were only four that were open. You're talking about four jobs in the entire world."

Coury thought he was close in 1981 with the New Orleans Saints before they hired Bum Phillips, then again after the 1985 season when the Houston Oilers fired Hugh Campbell. Coury was told the Oilers were looking outside the organization for a successor and most figured Coury the top candidate. But the Oilers instead promoted assistant Jerry Glanville.

It was then that Coury contacted the Rams.

The Rams were looking to add some fresh ideas to their passing game which, at last glance at NFL statistics, needed some freshening up.

In Coury they hired one of the game's most innovative offensive minds and a guy who has had pretty good luck with quarterbacks.

At Mater Dei, Coury coached John Huarte, who later won the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame. In 1983, Coury was the USFL's Coach of the Year, thanks in part to the performance of aging quarterback Johnnie Walton, who passed for 3,772 yards.

A few weeks ago, Coury met the Rams' quarterback, Dieter Brock.

So should Ram fans start licking their lips?

With the Breakers, Coury featured in every game a wacky play designed by a contributing fan. It was one of those popular USFL gimmicks, created to boost interest. Sometimes the plays really worked.

It's no secret that Coury loves to pass, pass, pass.

But before anyone gets too excited, remember that John Robinson still is the head coach and he fancies winning games the old-fashioned way--on the ground.

"Really, my only job is to coach the quarterbacks," Coury said. "Every time the quarterback moves, I'll be watching him, making sure he's following the offensive plan. Hopefully, I can add some thoughts to the passing game. I always thought I knew the passing game."

With the Rams, he'll be introduced to the attack that finished 28th in a league of 28 teams. With the Rams, he'll work with a quarterback who's much safer these days away from public places.

As duly noted in popularity polls around town, it will be a while before people forget Brock's passing performance (10 for 31 and one interception) against the Bears in the NFC title game.

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