Community Celebrating Diversity - CCD
Thursday, January 14th, 2016
5:30pm | Registration/Reception
6:00pm | Doors Open
5001 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale AZ, 85250
Winningest coach in Buffalo Bills History with 123 victories headlines annual MLK Jr Dinner Celebration
Coach Levy led the Buffalo Bills to an unprecedented four straight Super Bowls. He used his Harvard education to motivate and shape the careers and lives of many pro football athletes.
Levy graduated from Coe College Phi Kappa Phi in 1950 with a degree in Economics/Pre-Law. He lettered four times in track, three in football and once in basketball. He also served as president of the Clan of C and student council president his senior year. Levy continued with his education at Harvard, receiving a masters in English history. After he left Harvard, Levy coached track, basketball and football at various schools, including Coe College, before becoming head coach for the Montreal Alouettes of Canadian Football League (CFL) in 1973. He won two Grey Cup titles in the CFL, was named Coach of the Year in 1974 and was head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs for five years before taking over the Buffalo Bills in 1986.
Levy was certainly an excellent coach, not only because of his 154-120 record upon his retirement in 1997 and leading the Buffalo Bills to 123 victories, a team record, but for his attitude towards the game and his players. In an article in the April New Republic, Gregg Easterbrook describes Levy as "a gentle soul who truly believes sportsmanship matters more than victory and who never loses sleep over defeats." Known for not requiring a curfew, allowing quarterback Jim Kelly to call his own plays and holding the players responsible for pumping each other up, Levy succeeded in drawing the team together not through harsh words and violence, but through treating his players with respect and expecting the same in return. Pete Metzelaars, Detroit Lions tight end who played nine years under Levy, stated "The thing I'll remember is he treated us like men."
These coaching strategies may have been learned from the many men that had coached Levy along the way. In his acceptance speech for the National Football Hall of Fame, Levy thanks his teammates and coaches at Coe College. Dick Clausen, who coached Levy in football, "showed me what a noble profession coaching can be." Harris Lamb, Levy's football and basketball coach, became a good friend who Levy often referred to as an inspiration and a cherished source of support. Lamb once told Levy "to know the game is great. To play the game is greater. But to love the game is the greatest of them all," a quote Levy often used in speeches.
These speeches, which often included obscure literature references thanks to his Harvard education, often conveyed simple messages that provided inspiration. In the midst of an especially dismal season for the Buffalo Bills, Levy was hired as head coach. According to the Buffalo Bills website, Levy was introduced to the team after a dismal loss in Tampa. After speaking for three minutes, the players gave him a standing ovation. "I just tried to shoot straight with them," Levy recalled. "I recall saying that what it takes to win is simple, but it isn't easy."
Levy's simple speeches became an inspiration to both players and coaches alike. The Bills former special-teams ace Mark Pike, said that "Marv motivated in an unorthodox way. He wasn't rah-rah. He related his lessons to life, and he had a way of inspiring you."
Levy inspired the Bills to an incredible turnaround. Upon his retirement in 1997, Levy was the winningest coach in NFL history with a record of 154-130. He lead the Bills to win four straight conference titles and is the only coach in history to lead a team to four straight Super Bowls and to lose all four. One reporter, Gregg Easterbrook, credited this to Marv's education and demeanor.
Having his priorities in order made Levy unqualified to coach in the Super Bowl. He was not only the best-educated man ever to coach a pro football team but a gentle soul who truly believes sportsmanship matters more than victory. But, when they reached the Super Bowl, victory went to teams coached by workaholic, winning-is-everything, control-freak coaches who left nothing to chance. Thus Buffalo should blame Harvard for its ongoing civic despair. Now there's a grievance.
After 11 years with the Bills, Levy, at seventy-two, announced his retirement. In August of 2001, he was inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame. Bill Polian introduced and acknowledged Levy not just for his abilities as a coach, but for his character. "It is a great honor to present...my treasured friend and the finest man I know, coach Marv Levy."Learn more about Coach Levy. >> Coach Levy's 1991 Coe College Commencement Address. >>