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New Raiders Coach: Turner returns to lead his East Bay home team

Tue, Jan. 27, 2004
Eric Gilmore
Contra Costa Times

Coaching the Raiders may sound like a tough job to some.

Not to new Raiders coach Norv Turner, a former three-sport star at Alhambra High School.

Turner learned the true meaning of tough as a child in Martinez, watching his late mother, Vicki, raise five kids while battling multiple sclerosis.

Turner's late father had abandoned his family when Norv was 2. The Turners lived in public housing in Martinez and subsisted on welfare.

"She found a way to make our childhoods very, very normal," Turner said Monday after being introduced as the Raiders' new coach. "The thing I took from her is her great strength."

Turner also learned perspective from his mom, an understanding that football is "important, but it's not life and death."

"My mother, she had a tough deal," Turner said. "Coaching football and the great times and adversity of football, (compared) to what she went through is not real tough."

It was as a child in Martinez that Turner, 51, learned many of the life lessons and football lessons that led him to his job as Raiders coach, to his Bay Area football homecoming.

Former Alhambra coach Charlie Tourville called Turner the classic coach on the field.

"He was my P.E. assistant," Tourville said from his home near Phoenix. "We would talk over situations. He had all the kids coming to his house to lift weights. He was really the leader. He was the field general.

"You'd want him as a brother. You'd want him as a son. You'd want him as a coach. Just that kind of person."

Hiro Okawachi coached Turner's freshman football team and varsity basketball team at Alhambra.

"He knew more football than I did, even though I coached the frosh team," Okawachi said from his Benicia home. "He just studied the game."

Turner said his passion for football grew while playing for Tourville. He'd listen to him "talk football" for hours. He'd go with him to scout upcoming opponents.

"He loved to strategize," Turner said. "I was really taken by it. It was fun."

Those fun times at Alhambra led to a football scholarship at the University of Oregon and then a career as a football coach, first in college, then in the NFL.

Turner's coaching journey took him away from Martinez for nearly 30 years. He had stops at two colleges and five NFL teams -- he was fired 13 games into his seventh season as the Washington Redskins head coach in 2000 -- before returning Monday to the Bay Area.

"That's been my home forever," Turner said of Martinez. "My wife (Nancy) gets tired of the yearly tours through the back yards, but that's home."

Wanda Silveira, Turner's sister and the wife of Alhambra football coach Dave Silveira, said she's "thrilled" to have him home coaching her favorite NFL team.

"I think he'll do a great job," she said. "He is a very good person, a very hard worker. I'm sure we'll be going to plenty of Raider games."

Turner said he grew up as a Raiders fan, pretending to be Raiders quarterbacks when he played football with his childhood friends.

"About 30 miles over there in Martinez, I was Daryle Lamonica many times," Turner said. "When my arm got sore, I was George Blanda.

"I grew up with the Raiders. ... I'm thrilled to be here today."

University of Illinois football coach Ron Turner said he's happy for his big brother and said the Raiders should be happy they hired him.

"I think he brings a lot of credibility with what he's done," Ron Turner said from Champaign, Ill. "He has a couple (of) Super Bowl rings. He has a tremendous amount of respect around the league from coaches and players.

"He's very smart. Very bright offensively. He has an unbelievable feel as a play caller. Unbelievable communication skills. He's just very thorough and has a great way about him. He knows when to be firm on the guys, demanding in a good way."

Turner is now working for one of the NFL's most demanding bosses, Raiders managing general partner Al Davis. And he's leading a team filled with strong-willed players.

"As tough as the business is, I'm sure he's not intimidated about anything with the job," Dave Silveira said.

"We're all real excited for him. It's tough to get a second chance in this business. He deserves it."

WHO: Norv Turner

WHAT: New Raiders coach

BORN: May 17, 1952, Lejeune, N.C. Moved to Martinez in 1954

AGE: 51

HIGH SCHOOL: Alhambra High (Martinez), class of 1971

COLLEGE: University of Oregon, quarterback, 1971-1974

COACHING HIGHLIGHTS: Los Angeles Rams receivers/tight ends coach, 1985-90; Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator, 1991-93; Washington Redskins head coach, 1994-2000; San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator, 2001; Miami Dolphins assistant head coach/offensive coordinator, 2002-03.

FAMILY TIES: Brother Ron is the University of Illinois head football coach. Sister Wanda Silveira is married to Alhambra High School football coach Dave Silveira. Nephew Chris Turner is a Raiders offensive assistant. Turner and his wife, Nancy, have three children, Scott, Stephanie and Drew.

© Copyright 2004, Contra Costa Times