New Patriots coach MacPherson hits it big with small-town style hTC

March 03, 1991|By Ron Borges | Ron Borges,Boston Globe

OLD TOWN, Maine -- If you're coming from Old Town and going to see Mac, you better bring the doughnuts.

Whether you were driving to Amherst to watch him coach the University of Massachusetts or traveling to Syracuse to visit him in the Carrier Dome, before you headed down the Maine Turnpike it was wise to pack a box or two of La Bree's doughnuts because if you didn't, you'd hear about it.

"Mac's never forgotten where he came from," said Skip Chappelle, the former University of Maine basketball coach who hails from the same Old Town that produced new New England Patriots head coach Dick MacPherson. "He's from Maine and proud of it. He can't talk too long without mentioning Old Town.

"I remember one year we were going up to Syracuse to play in the Carrier Classic and Dick gave me a call. He said, 'Don't show up here unless you bring two boxes of La Bree's doughnuts.' I remember we were getting on the bus and you could see the kids wondering why the hell we were lugging all these doughnuts with us to Syracuse, but it meant something to Mac."

What it meant was home, and Dick MacPherson has not forgotten where that is even though he's traveled a long road the past 30 years just to travel from Maine to Massachusetts.

"He, more than anyone I know, is proud to be from Maine," said Ralph Leonard, an Old Town native and boyhood friend of MacPherson who has remained perhaps his closest friend. "People kid us about being from the sticks, but he's proud of coming from a poor, big family and doing well. He thinks of the state of Maine the same way.

"This year I called Mac in Hawaii when he was out there coaching that bowl game and told him an old high school classmate of ours was sick with cancer. After that game, he was being interviewed on TV and he took the time out to say hello and wish him well. That man was watching. He died the next day. It meant a lot to him that Mac remembered him.

"That's why I think those doughnuts mean so much to him. When we were kids, they made La Bree's doughnuts right here in Old Town, in the basement of the La Brees' house. Now they're all over the state. Every time anyone from Old Town is coming to one of Mac's games, he has to bring him La Bree's doughnuts. Maybe they represent the things he believes in.

"He feels strongly about small-town values and he feels for the poor guy who is trying to make it. Of course, they taste pretty good, too."

In a sense, those doughnuts from Maine are winners, just as MacPherson has been at every coaching port of call he's made. But some might argue that despite a successful career that has seen him rebuild both UMass' and Syracuse's programs, Dick MacPherson, at 60, is back where he started a poor guy trying to make it with a poor team, one that finished 1-15 last year and became the laughingstock of the NFL as much for its locker room peccadilloes as its on-field failures.

But a Maine man doesn't see things quite that way. Values up they-ah are as solid as the rocky coast. Perspective comes from growing up with cold Atlantic waters battering your shoreline and a harsh wind whipping your face.

You carry strong lessons away from a place like Old Town, Maine, lessons about what it takes to make it, lessons that will now be taught in classrooms at Foxboro Stadium.

"We had things going pretty well at Syracuse (which MacPherson took to the Sugar Bowl in 1988 when he was named Kodak Coach of the Year), but this is a GREAT! job with the Patriots," MacPherson said, the sweet sound of ENTHUSIASM! dripping from his voice the way jelly oozes from a La Bree's doughnut.

"No place else can I have as much IMPACT! as I can here. We have a chance to make the greatest impact of any team in PRO FOOTBALL! NOBODY else can do what WE! can do this year."

That, of course, is because nobody else lost every game but one a year ago, but Dick MacPherson will worry about that when he has to . . . which is never. Those days are gone while the ones ahead of him are the only ones entrusted to a 60-year-old kid from Old Town, Maine.

They are the ones he will worry about because they are the ones he can have an IMPACT! on.

Dick MacPherson grew up on Bradbury Street, in a house packed with 12 kids and two parents who taught lessons about work and self-reliance and loyalty just by living their lives.

They are the lessons you learn by watching a plumber fight to feed 12 children during the Depression. You learn things in such a home that travel well, which perhaps is why two priests and two nurses people who give for a living came out of that household.

MacPherson packed up those lessons and took them to Illinois and UMass and the University of Cincinnati and the Denver Broncos and back to UMass again when they made him The Boss and on to the Cleveland Browns and then Syracuse where he got to be The Boss a second time and now to Foxboro, where he knows for better or worse he'll be The Boss for the last time.

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