College-football coaching legend Lou Holtz came Sunday to Atlantic City to rally the team — the team of donors who support the health-care mission of Shore Medical Center in Somers Point.
Holtz, a head coach for 33 years who won the national championship at Notre Dame, has become an analyst on ESPN and an author of motivational books. He gave a crowd of about 550 people in the Grand Ballroom at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort a pep talk peppered with laugh lines from his football career and life lessons from his 77 years.
And the audience at the 25th annual Stainton Society Thank You Brunch clearly enjoyed hearing what Holtz came to tell them. He delivered his message in a thick, southern drawl and broke it down into a series of lists, including a “five-point plan” and “three laws,” and the “same three things everybody wants to know.”
In his five points, one is, “There’s no way in this world you can have success if you don’t have sacrifice,” Holtz said. Some of his sacrifices included missing out on his own four kids’ ball games because he had to coach the teams at Notre Dame, Arkansas, South Carolina and North Carolina State, among other stops in his career.
“If you have a passion to succeed, you’re not going to listen when people tell you you can’t do something,” Holtz said, starting a story that let him drop the name of a then-young Arkansas attorney general, Bill Clinton.
Holtz said Clinton went to court to successfully defend the coach’s decision to suspend three stars who broke the rules for Holtz’ University of Arkansas team before Arkansas’ 1978 Orange Bowl game against the mighty Oklahoma Sooners.
Because of those missing players, Arkansas was the “biggest underdog ever in a major bowl game,” Holtz said, but his kids went out and beat Oklahoma 31-6 even with subs at three key spots.
“Be a dreamer” is another rule, he said, getting a laugh when he added that the Rev. Martin Luther King’s historic 1963 speech was called “I Have a Dream,” not “I have a strategic plan I want to share with you.”
And then there are questions everyone needs to ask. They include, “Are you growing or are you dying? Is your marriage growing or dying. ... Is Shore Medical Center growing or dying?”
Holtz has written three popular books since he retired in 2005. They include “Winning Everyday: A Game Plan for Success” and “Wins, Losses and Lessons.”
And from the crowd’s reaction to Holtz, he may have helped the Somers Point hospital continue its recent growth spurt — “It’s unbelievable what this medical center has done,” Holtz said, complimenting both donors and administrators on its ongoing expansion.
Louis DeScioli, of Egg Harbor Township, admitted he’s not the world’s biggest football fan, and before Holtz started speaking, he wasn’t sure how the lessons of football would apply to health care.
“But I just thought he was excellent,” said DeScioli, who runs two businesses in Somers Point.
Pete Madden, of Ocean City, is a big football fan. He was happy to be invited to hear Holtz speak.
A lot of college coaches are known for their fiery deliveries, he said, but Holtz “was very even-keeled. Still, you could tell how passionate he is about what he does.”
Hospital officials said the event isn’t a fundraiser in itself. They hold it to thank donors for their past giving. But Pauline McDaniel, the new executive director of the Shore Medical Center Foundation, said the Thank You Brunch “starts the giving season for the hospital.”
Shore’s priorities for this year include a new linear accelerator for cancer treatment — an investment of $4 or $5 million — and a new CAT scan, McDaniel said after the coach’s talk.
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