Renowned Notre Dame coach talks about his friendship, passing of George H.W. Bush

NOW: Renowned Notre Dame coach talks about his friendship, passing of George H.W. Bush


The 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush, died Friday, Nov. 30 at his home in Houston.

Support poured in from all around the world and right here in Michiana.

I spoke with former Notre Dame Men's Head Basketball Coach, Digger Phelps, about his close friendship with the former President.

Digger Phelps said, "We talked about a minute, he knew it was me, he knew why I was calling and I explained to him that I was going to light her a candle at Notre Dame and pray for her. And I said to him, I said George, you're still the head coach down there, make sure everything is getting done the right way and uh I was so glad I talked to him and heard his voice."

This was the last time the legendary coach spoke to his friend and former president, George H.W. Bush. It was a friendship that lasted the final 45 years of Bush's life. At that time, ambassador to the U.N., H.W. made a huge impression on the young Notre Dame coach.

"I just think that he, as a leader, was unbelievable and he was always grateful for anything and everything you did."

And to Digger, who served the 41st president in the national weed and seed program. Always generous with his time and holding him close in his inner circle.

"His last weekend in the white house, he invites my wife and I to camp Dame in his last weekend. It was like January 20th uh back in 93, and the only other people there were the supreme court justices."

The two, also making a stop the two would never forget.

"When Notre Dame played Texas A and M that was about two weeks after 9/11 and I went down and visited him at his presidential library at where Texas A and M is at college station. I'll never forget we go around, he takes me out back and he shows me his little daughters grave and he also shows me where him and Barbara will be laid to rest."

Barbra Bush laid to rest there on April 17th. In her final moments, George, next to her as he was for 73 years.

"But for him to be by her side like that and hold her hand and her family being around her as she took her last breathes, that was typical of who they were and what they were. It was always family."

For Digger, George was family. For Digger, the Bush's will always be family and that, for this legendary coach, will always be one of his greatest victories.

"To them, It was never about culture, never about religion, never about the color of skin. It's who are you and what are you and what can you bring to the table so we all win. And that's vintage Bush.

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