One of the classiest coaches in the NFL is Indianapolis head man Tony Dungy. The soft-spoken and reserved Dungy supposedly lacked the extra fire that Tampa wanted in a head coach (although that team lacked anything resembling a QB) and the Bucs ran him out of town. He landed in Indianapolis where Dungy turned around a no-defense, no-moxy 6-10 team into a perennial contender and Super Bowl threat, especially this year. Dungy is no pioneer -- there have been other successful black head coaches in the NFL (Art Shell, Dennis Green) -- but none have had the sustained run that Dungy has produced. Dungy's even-keel demeanor, intelligence, class and personal decency has helped pave the way for more black head coaches to follow in his wake (Marvin Lewis, Lovie Smith, Romeo Crennel -- each of whom has been successful so far: Lewis is the biggest reason Cincy has turned from laughingstock to winner, Smith's Bears are 10-4, Crennel's Browns are 5-9 with a midlevel NFL-Europe roster). Ultimately, Dungy may be remembered as the Sidney Poitier of black NFL head coaches -- not the first good black head coach, but a great one (and potentially a landmark if the Colts win the Super Bowl, just as Poitier was the first black Oscar winner) who opened up opportunities for others.
This morning Dungy's son James (18) was discovered dead at his Tampa apartment. Our condolences to Coach Dungy, his wife and James's four siblings.