Hall of Fame coach Hank Strum, who took the Kansas City Chiefs to two Super Bowls and was known for his inventive game plans and exuberance on the sideline, died Monday July 4th, He was 82.
Strum had been in declining health for several years and Dale Strum attributed his father's death to complications from diabetes. He died at St. Tammany Parish Hospital, near his home in Covington, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. He built a home there during his 2-year stint as coach of the Saints 1976-1977 and retired there.
"Pro football has lost one of its most innovative and creative coaches and one of its most innovative and creative personalities as well," Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt said in a telephone interview.
Strum was the Chiefs' first and winningest coach, taking over the Dallas Texans in the very first year of the upstart AFL in 1960 and coached them through 1974, moving with them to Kansas City where they were renamed the Chiefs in 1963.
The gregarious, stocky, blazer-wearing Strum carried a rolled up game plan in his hand as he paced the sideline, leading the Chiefs to AFL titles in 1962, 1966 and 1969, which led to an appearances in the first Super Bowl, a 35-10 loss to the Green Bay Pacers, and Super Bowl IV, a 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in 1970.
Hank Strum had a 124-76-10 record with the Chiefs and in 17 seasons as a head coach, with an overall career record of 131-97-10 in the regular season and 5-3 in the postseason.
Strum was credited with creating the 2-tight end offense that provided an extra blocker, and was the first coach to wear a microphone during a Super Bowl. Stram's sideline antics, during the Chiefs Super Bowl victory in New Orleans captured by NFL Films, helped bring the league into the video age.
Strum later coached two seasons with the Saints and enjoyed a successful second career in CBS' television and "Monday Night Football" radio booths as an analyst. Strum made his mark in the booth by consistently telling the audience what would happen before it did.
"I think they'll go deep here," he would tell his partner, Jack Buck. "Elway to throw," Buck would respond. "He's looking deep. He throws deep. Caught by Steve Sewell at the 11-yard line. You called that one, Coach."
"John just saw what I saw," Strum would reply.
Strum was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. The then-80-year-old had to be pushed onto the stage in a wheelchair and his induction speech was delivered via videotaped.
In an interview that year, Strum said he would accept another coaching job in a minute. "I've lived a charmed life," he said. "I married the only girl I ever loved and did the only job I ever loved."
Len Dawson, the Hall of Fame quarterback who played under Strum at Kansas City, also called him an innovator. "He was responsible for doing a lot of the things in the '60s that teams are still using now," said Dawson, citing the moving pocket and the triple stack defense.
"His whole life was football that's what he was born for, I think. He had a passion for it, not just a liking," Dawson said. "He was really sincere when he talked about the team being a family. Everybody really loved him."
Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier, who played for the Chiefs under Strum, said his former coach was able to elevate his players to new levels of success. "All of us had a great joy in being able to experience the sport at the level we did because of his creative mind and the kind of personality that he put around you," he said from his home in Midlothian, Va. "That allowed everyone to perform at levels higher than they would have without him."
AFL/Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt hired Strum, then an assistant at Miami, Fla., in 1959 after Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson and then-New York Giants assistant Tom Landry turned down the team. "He had never been a head coach before and you never know how that's going to work out. In our case it worked out tremendously. I think it worked out great for his career, too, because he ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Hunt said. "He deserves to be there."
Strum is survived by his wife Phyllis, sons Henry, Dale, Stu and Gary, daughters Julia and Mary Nell, and a sister, Dolly.