Ken Mirer knew it right away. Bill Doba was all-in kind of football coach.
“Bill was one of the rare guys in my early days. He’s a lifer,” said Mirer on Tuesday.
As young coaches, Doba and Mirer worked side-by-side at Goshen High School in the 1960s. Doba left for a two-season stint at Angola and came back to GHS to take over for Joe Springer in 1967. Mirer would become the GHS head coach in 1974.
They’ve remained the closest of friends. Doba, who’s now retired and living on Birch Lake in Vandalia, Mich., picked up Mirer in Chicago on Sunday after a flight from California.
The two will be among the many coaches and fans of Michiana football who will meet Friday for “An Evening with Bill Doba,” a night sponsored by the Mishawaka Touchdown Club. After leaving Goshen, Doba won 46 games in six seasons with the Cavemen.
During those seasons in the Princess City, Doba coached against Phil Teegarden, who was at South Bend St. Joseph then.
But Teegarden first met Doba in 1963 at the House of Harter in downtown Goshen, which became a meeting place for area coaches.
He was immediately impressed by Doba.
“I was at Greene Township. I had just gotten out of Beiger,” said Teegarden, who was 27 at the time. “Doba was a freshman coach at Goshen. I was terribly impressed with this young man. He was very social, very amicable. There was a good way about him.
“I remember telling my wife that if I ever get a head coaching job, I’d want a guy like that on my staff,” he said.
“Bill had that drive. You could see that he was one of those lifetime coaches,” Mirer said. “At what level I didn’t know, but it didn’t surprise me.”
That “level” became a lengthy run in Div. 1 college football — stints at IU, Purdue and The Citadel. From 1989 to 2002, Doba was a celebrated defensive coach, later the coordinator, at Washington State. He served as head coach from 2003-’07.
His football birth in northern Indiana, though, has not been lost on Doba.
“I was very fortunate. Bob Rumsey was an outstanding man, a great role model, and Joe Springer was a great innovator,” he said. “Joe had a great work ethic. He was in it seven days a week. He encouraged me to become the head coach at Angola. Everything in life is timing.”
Mirer recalled playing a round of golf with Doba in 1977 while Doba waited on IU coach Lee Corso to call with a job offer.
“I knew he’d be good, especially as a recruiter. X’s and O’s, a lot of people can do that,” Mirer said. “He motivated people.”
In a winding 20-minute phone interview, Doba basically described himself the very same way.
We spoke some about actual football, but not as much as you’d think. Football coaches always seem to have a keen grasp for detail.
“It’s amazing how smart I became since I retired. I haven’t made a bad call yet,” Doba said.
As a career defense guy, football on television can be frustrating, he said. He’d like to see where linebackers are assigned or how cornerbacks are lined up.
“The cameras are always zoomed in on the quarterback barking out signals,” said Doba, who also noted that he’s “comfortable in that lounge chair” at home.
But get Bill Doba talking about life and people and that’s where the true man shines.
Doba is enjoying life and “becoming a better grandparent” because he missed so much of his own kids growing up when he was a young college coach.
Doba revels in the accomplishments and successes of former players and coaches.
“In college, when you recruit a kid and bring him, you become his father, at least for that first semester or so,” he said. “He’s probably going to find his wife and become a man in those four or five years of college. It’s not about what you know, it’s what you can teach.
“It’s a pretty big responsibliity ... a lot of reward there,” he said
And Doba shared some of that very same personal fortune with last fall’s Mishawaka High football squad, which powered its way to the Class 4A state title game.
The all-in coach all over again.
“He was able to swing down twice this past year and he talked to our team,” said Cavemen coach Bart Curtis, who’s one of the point men on Friday’s event. “He talked about more than just football. It’s life, kids ... that’s the thing. It always comes back to the kids.”
Bill Beck is The Truth sports editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
"AN EVENING WITH BILL DOBA''
When: Friday, May 3.
Where: Celebrations Unlimited, 410 Laurel St., Mishawaka.
Social hour/dinner: 5:30 p.m.
Cost: $25 for dinner, cash bar.
Contact: Bart Curtis at 532-8893 or Marsha Shide at 520-7145 (reservations needed by Wednesday, May 1).