Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Richard "Doc" Sauers: Always the drive to win

It's been 10 years since Richard "Doc" Sauers worked his last basketball game at the University at Albany. But they still call him coach on the Western Avenue campus.
In 1997, Sauers called it quits after 42 years on the UAlbany bench. But he didn't retire, he moved right into the position of women's golf coach, one he still has today.

"Ten years?," Sauers said when asked if it seems that long ago that he left basketball. "It's a long time ago and it gets more blurry as time goes by. I'm so wrapped up with the golf team right now. It keeps me busy."

Sauers was known as a stiff competitor on the basketball courts. He hated to lose more than most, taking defeats hard and long into 42 years of winter nights.

When the basketball career was over, he had 702 career wins and 330 losses. If you ask him about most of them, you'll get a review from him that will sound like the game ended an hour ago.

Like the first one.

"We played RPI in the old Union College field house ... it was Dec. 1 or 2, 1955," Sauers said and it sounds like you're watching "Hoosiers." "We had an 11-point lead at halftime and we scored 13 points in the second half and we lost by one. We played pass and cut, pass and cut, the whole game. My captain passed and cut but never looked for the ball and we lost the game."

Fifty two years later and he still sounds mad about it.

Sauers, a spry 77, still has a hand in the hoops game. He works for America East, UAlbany's league. He observes the league's officials and says he will see about seven of his former program's games.

He says Will Brown, who has taken the Great Danes to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has done a good job. And he marvels at the price tag Brown has around his neck to run the basketball team. He is signed through the 2011-12 season at $250,000 per year.

"He's making three times what I made," Sauers said. "But it's a business now. I still watch it, I do. But there is more and more emphasis on recognition and TV contracts. Teams try to fatten up on the patsies and then play .500 in their league and everyone thinks they're good."

On this day, Sauers was hard at work for the women's golf team, trying to land a recruit for next year. He works hard at it.

When then athletic director Milt Richards approached him about running the women's golf team, he didn't have much to work with. His first team consisted of three members of the women's basketball team who had played a little bit of golf.

Back then, rules at matches stated after 10 shots on a hole, it was time to quit and go onto the next.

"We'd have our girls shoot rounds of 125," Sauers said. "It was hard to watch."

Besides coaching the team, he drives the van and his wife, Elaine, another accomplished golfer, is his assistant coach.

Although golf is a calmer sport to coach than basketball, the competitive juices from the coach still flow. He wants to win. He hates mistakes.

"Sometimes when they do something stupid, I bite my lip and look the other way," he said with a laugh. "I just like to have a little action."

By Tim Wilkin

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