Oct. 28, 2008
SEATTLE (AP) - Tyrone Willingham seemed aghast that he could have skipped out on his weekly radio show Monday night.
"You mean, I could have turned it down?" Willingham said as the show opened.
Willingham had a pretty good excuse -- only hours earlier he was fired as head coach at Washington, effective the end of the season.
But true to his military-precision demeanor, Willingham showed up at (Anthony's on Shilshole) on Monday evening, as he does every Monday night for an hour-long radio show, rehashing last weekend's loss to Notre Dame and addressing a couple of calls.
But while the purple, gold and white balloons were still tied to pillars and Willingham sat behind a banquet table draped with a gold tablecloth, there was an undeniable air of awkwardness considering the events of the day.
Perhaps the most unsettling moment came when Willingham sat stone-faced, looking down at the leather binder on the table in front of him while UW President Mark Emmert explained over the phone his reasons for Willingham's dismissal.
Even when Emmert cracked a small joke, Willingham's facial expression never changed.
"It's a big job, a challenging job. But the task is easier than the one handed to coach Willingham because of the work he has done," Emmert said, trying to pay Willingham a compliment.
Most of those assembled at the restaurant were Willingham supporters, some decked out in purple regalia, many sipping an early evening drink. A couple of former players -- Sonny Sixkiller and Chuck Nelson -- sat at a table in the back of the room.
Unlike previous shows, Willingham didn't take questions from fans at the restaurant, and producers piped through only two phone calls -- one praising Willingham's class as a person; and another wondering if Willingham kept fans at too much of a distance in his tenure.
Otherwise, Willingham sat solemnly, capping off his strange day by getting a brief standing ovation from a few fans when the show concluded.
"Leadership is an opportunity to serve and hopefully I served our coaches, our young men and our staff members well by being a good, strong, positive leader," Willingham said.