Dooley talks football during visit to Albany -- and gardening, of course

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- When someone mentions the name Vince Dooley, most people think of Georgia football and the Red Clay Hounds. As it turns out, it's time to also add Green Thumb to the mix.

The legendary former Bulldogs coach and athletic director was at the Sunset Grill on Thursday at the Albany Mall to sign copies of his latest book, "Vince Dooley's Garden: A Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach."

In the book, Dooley explains his 20-year commitment to gardening and chronicles the growth of the spectacular garden that surrounds the home he shares with his wife, Barbara, in Athens. The book is illustrated by renowned artist Steve Penley and also contains more than 100 photographs of Dooley's garden.

"One of the advantages of living in a college town is that you are surrounded by smart people," the coach said. "I was always interested in gardening, so I decided I would take a few classes. That was 12 or 13 years ago. I became friends with Allan Armitage and Michael Dirr (professors of horticulture at UGA) and learned quite a lot. Of course I just audited the classes and I made notes, listened to the lectures and asked questions."

Dooley then added with a smile: "But the best part was when it came quiz time, I could get up, wave and say, 'Good luck!' as I was headed out of the door."

Dooley said the motivation for the book, which took him a year and a half to put together, was simple.

"I hope this book is an inspiration to anyone who wants to grow a beautiful garden," the coach said. "If you look at it (the book) and see what I can do with very little experience, then they can also do it."

The business of botany aside, the coach eventually turned the topic of conversation to football Thursday, starting with the hiring of Georgia favorite son Will Muschamp as the new head coach of the archrival Florida Gators.

"I was surprised that Florida hired Will and I was more surprise by how fast they did it," Dooley said. "I mean, he was the coach-in-waiting at Texas. But I heard there were some problems there and I guess he didn't want to wait for (UT head coach Mack Brown) to finally retire. (Brown) sure doesn't seem like he is in a hurry to step down anytime soon."

When asked if SEC Commissioner Mike Slive was scratched off the Christmas card lists of several of the league's football coaches because of his handling of the Cam Newton situation at Auburn, the coach said the NCAA might be the one who needs to answer some questions down the road.

"I can understand why some people might be upset with the commissioner," Dooley said. "I am sure that he was doing what he thought he needed to do for the best of the conference. But the NCAA decision (to quickly clear Netwon) raises a lot of questions for the NCAA. I think most of those questions will be coming from USC.

"It looks like the schools weren't treated in the same fashion. Why did they rule for Auburn and not for USC when the cases seem similar?"

Dooley was then asked the hot topic around Bulldogs Nation these days: How hot is head coach Mark Richt's seat in Athens?

"I really don't know," Dooley replied. "But I do think next year seems to be the crucial one for him."

And with that, Dooley returned to autographing his books, which may be purchased online at amazon.com.