Sam Adams,1931-2010, R.I.P. by Russell Smelley, Walt Murphy, Note by Larry Eder



Sam Adams, UCSB athletics coach for 34 years, died January 11, 2010, at the age of 78. Photo courtesy of

Sam Adams was one of the iconic coaches in the state of California. He was the decathlon coach, and without his thunderous voice and support, many great athletes would have lost their way.

I met Sam shortly after launching American Athletics. I had gone up to him to say hello, as a classmate was one of his assistants, (Pete Dolan). The man grabbed my hand, and looked into my eyes, and said, : " Do you know what coaches really are? Educators! " He then proceeded, in about ten minutes to explain to me the importance of the role of a coach, especially a track coach.

Sam Adams lived a long, full life, and inspired generations of athletes at UC Santa Barbara. His spirit lives long every time someone runs, jumps or throws on the campus. Keep his wife, Sue, and family in your thoughts and prayers. He was a good man.

Russell Smelley's moving tribute follows, courtesy of Walt Murphy News Services, used with permission.

Walt Murphy's News and Results Service ([email protected])
(c)Copyright 2009-all rights reserved. May not be reprinted or retransmitted without permission

Westmont (Ca) coach Russell Smelley passes along the following:

I wanted to let you know that Sam Adams, retired UC Santa Barbara head coach, former assistant at Westmont College after his retirement, died on Monday evening January 11. He passed quietly under the gentle care of his wife Sue. Sam had suffered through Alzheimer’s disease the last few years but handled himself with great dignity as was his wont and Sue managed his care in the same manner.

Sam competed in the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Trials in the decathlon. The ’52 Trials was Sam’s first decathlon ever as he came right out of the Army to compete. He just missed making the team in ’56(finished 5th). Sam was a UC Berkeley graduate and former head coach Brutus Hamilton said in his book that “Sam Adams was the greatest athlete I ever coached” In his era, Sam was one of the great tri-throwers with his combined bests in the javelin, discus and shot put.

He came to UCSB as assistant coach under former 1928 Olympian Nick Carter. As a Santa Ynez native, Sam essentially came home to UCSB. He developed a devoted following of athletes who were drawn to and tried to impress ‘The Rock’. Sam had few words to say and wasn’t long on encouraging words. What he did was model commitment, steadfast belief and solid character in his role as a Track & Field coach. To have Sam say to an athlete, “That wasn’t so bad”, he would have fired them up for a week of training.

In 1984, as director of the Santa Barbara Outreach program, Sam had 18 qualifiers to the Olympic Trials in the decathlon. He was also coaching Jane Frederick in 1984 and during a large portion of her stellar career. Sam remained a believer in scoring dual meets, doing things the right way (his way) and letting athletes find a way to succeed. Based on the devotion of his former athletes and friends, Sam lived a life that affected us all and made us want to do our best. His presence has been sorely missed as the Alzheimer’s stole his memory, but his presence of dignity and strength remained to the last.

For more on Sam "the Rock" Adams, :

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