Don Shula, Hall of Fame coach, dies at 90
Thursday, May 14, 2020
Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history whose 1972 perfect season brought the Miami
Dolphins one of their two Super Bowl championships, died May 4 at his home in Indian Creek.
He was 90.
Shula was a Miami Lakes resident during many of the 26 years – from 1970 to 1996 -- when he coached the Dolphins.
A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Shula was in the inaugural class of inductees into the Miami Lakes Sports Hall of Fame.
After learning of his death, the town lowered flags to half-staff in his honor.
“Coach Shula’s impact on Miami Lakes will live forever,” Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid said.
“The Shula’s brand and the Miami Lakes brand go hand-in-hand. He put our town on the map.”
Miami Lakes was developed by The Graham
Companies from the
Graham family’s dairy farm.
In the late 1980s, Shula and the Grahams entered into a hospitality partnership.
“The Graham and Shula families have enjoyed a close personal and business relationship for over 45 years,” said Stuart S. Wyllie, president and chief executive officer of The Graham Companies.
“We are proud that the coach chose Miami Lakes to raise his family and to open the original Shula’s Steak House, which has enjoyed nationwide success,” Wyllie said.
“He will be very much missed by everyone who had the pleasure to know him,” Wyllie said.
A golf course, two restaurants, a hotel, spa and athletic club in town are all named for Shula.
Shula and his family lived in the Loch Lomond community which is hugged by the golf course; his home was on the 16th hole.
His children played on the fields of nearby
Shula’s Steak House in Miami Lakes is the first location that grew into a chain of restaurants.
It’s walls are decorated with photographs and memorabilia from Shula’s career and championship team, and is a destination for sports fans.
Shula’s former team called him “the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years. He brought the winning edge to our franchise and put the Dolphins and the city of Miami in the national sports scene,” the Miami Dolphins said on Twitter.
A statue of Shula stands in front of the team’s home field at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Shula was also remembered by NFL
Commissioner Roger Goodell , who called him “one of the greatest coaches.”
hula “made an extraordinarily positive impact on so many lives. …Coach
Shula lived an unparalleled football life,” Goodell said.
“As a player, Hall of Fame coach, and long-time member and co-chair of the
NFL Competition Committee, he was a remarkable teacher and mentor who for decades inspired excellence and exemplified integrity,” Goodell said.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Shula was known to attend daily sunrise Mass
at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Miami Lakes.
Shula led fundraisers to help build Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic School, which opened in 1987.
He once brought former Dolphins Quarterback Dan Marino to Mass on
Easter Sunday, to the delight of church members and clergy, said Elsa Reus, director of community relations for the church.
“He was very loved in the community and a special part of our church,” Reus said of Shula. “I’m saddened by his loss because he was a great human being.”
Dave Gergely is the golf sales coordinator at Shula’s Golf Course. He met the coach 38 years ago when he was director of sports entertainment at Shula’s Steak 2 restaurant on Main Street.
A TV program, ‘The Don Shula Show,’ was filmed in the bar before fans on
Monday nights, Gergely said.
It aired on WPLG-Ch. 10, before “Monday Night Football” was shown.
The restaurant also hosted the weekly Touchdown Club luncheon; local business people would pay to attend and hear special speakers.
“Coach Shula was always the biggest draw,” Gergely said.
His namesake golf course was the original site for the Don Shula Golf Tournament for Breast
Cancer Research which began in the early ‘80s, Gergely said.
“He always picked Dan Marino and Dick Anderson to be his partners because they were the best golfers,” Gergely said.
Shula’s first wife
Dorothy Shula, mother of their five children,
succumbed to the disease in 1991 at age 57.
Shula the coach was known for his focus.
He won 347 games overall as a head coach. During regular season play, he won 71 games for the Baltimore Colts and 257 with the Dolphins.
Shula’s Miami teams won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1972 and 1973.
The 1972 win was the first and only undefeated Super Bowl year in NFL history, with the Dolphins going 17-0 on their way to the title.
After Shula retired from the game, he could enjoy his accomplishments.
“He would sit and talk for hours with people,” Gergely said. “He just loved people. He was just a wonderful, dignified man.
“When people talked about the Dolphins, his big grin would be unbelievable,” Gergely said.
He last saw Shula in
January at Shula’s Steak House in town at his 90th birthday dinner hosted by former Dolphin wide receiver Nat Moore, now an executive with the team.
“There were probably 25 former Dolphins there,” Gergely said, “including [wide receiver] Mark Duper, [guard] Larry Little and [safety] Dick Anderson. [Quarterback] Bob Griese sat with him for quite a while.”
Shula used a wheelchair life. After a golf tournament at Indian Creek held a year ago for children of fallen police officers, Shula handed out the trophy for first place.
“He said, ‘If I wasn’t in this wheelchair, I’d kick all your butts!’, meaning on the golf course,” Gergely said. “He was feisty to the end.”
Shula’s survivors include his wife Mary Anne and his adult children Dave, Donna, Sharon, Anne and Mike and grandchildren.
contributed to this report.