Notre Dame coaches, players remember Parseghian
Former Notre Dame Basketball Coach Digger Phelps called Ara, his brother.
Phelps called it a tough day, but refuses to remember his mentor for his final days, but rather for the laughs they shared and the times they spent together.
“What was amazing about Ara was that he was a regular guy, a people’s guy,” said Phelps.
He was a people’s champion.
For Phelps, Ara was a friend, a mentor and a man who he emulated.
“Well it started back in 1965, he’s head football coach and I’m basketball coach of St. Garbriel’s High School in Hazelton, PA. So I write him a letter how I love Notre Dame, the essence of Notre Dame, and how someday I want to what he’s doing in football in basketball,” said Phelps.
Years later in 1974, Digger took the program to number one, beating UCLA in the same calendar year, Ara’s Irish won a National Championship.
On stage at a pep rally on campus Ara invited Digger to speak first.
“It was saying now the letter has matured. Because what he did in football we now did in basketball. And he wanted me up on that stage January 20th the day after the UCLA game to get recognition. That’s just vintage Ara Parseghian over the years,” said Phelps.
And the legend touched many lives over the years including players that arrived on campus long after Ara had left, including Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Tim Brown.
“When you look at Ara you think how can I be a better man? Then you think man I have a ways to go. The way he did it, he did it at the ultimate level. Man when you live a life like that, people should be giving him a standing ovation cause you don’t see many men get it done the way he did,” said Brown.
Brown now shares Ara’s story with his children, speaking of the man after football that cared deeply for his family and community.
“When you look at people in their life's journey, when he would speak at a pep rally, wow. You could hear a pin drop. Then he would give that one emotional speech and the roof would vibrate with the noise. That’s who he was and how he was and I guarantee you he and father ted are reminiscing about some great moments, that they both had at Notre Dame,” said Phelps.