A decade before Spike Dykes joined the Texas Tech coaching staff, the Red Raiders had another coach who fit the same general description.
Bob Patterson’s bio in the 1980 Tech football media guide began by calling him “The resident expert on ‘country coaching’ and friendly handshakes” in one sentence and “highly likeable” in the next. Patterson, a Tech defensive line coach during the Steve Sloan and Rex Dockery years, died Monday. He was 84.
“He was a special guy,” Sloan told A-J Media on Tuesday. “The one thing about him that was neat, I always thought, was the players that he coached always liked him. They always liked him. That’s hard to get to happen. He enjoyed coaching, and he enjoyed the players — the way coaching should be, I guess.”
Patterson, nicknamed “Punkin”, was on the Tech staff from 1975-80, including the 1976 season when the Red Raiders reached No. 5 in the national rankings after an 8-0 start and finished 10-2. He split defensive line duties some years with Jess Stiles and David Knaus. In addition, he had the title of administrative assistant to both Sloan and Dockery.
Patterson was back in Lubbock just six months ago when the Double T Association hosted a reunion for the Sloan and Dockery teams.
“Coach Patterson never met a stranger,” said Wallene Leak, Dockery’s wife until he died in a small-plane crash in 1983. “He was a good man. I always think about that smile on his face. He had a unique love of people.”
When Sloan was hired as Tech head coach in 1975, he brought five assistants with him from Vanderbilt: Dockery as offensive coordinator, Patterson, receivers coach John Cropp, running backs coach Art Zeleznik and young defensive coordinator Bill Parcells. Three years later, Sloan took the head-coaching job at Mississippi.
“Steve brought everybody together at Vanderbilt,” Leak said, “and then we all moved to Lubbock. When Steve left, some stayed in Lubbock and some went with Steve.
“That was a hard parting for all of us, because as a coaching family, we were so close. It was hard to see part of your coaching family go to Ole Miss and part of them stay in Lubbock.”
Patterson was one who stayed, though he had an invitation to follow Sloan.
“Oh yeah, I tried to get him to go,” Sloan said, “but he just liked Texas. … The big reason he gave me was, he just liked it out there in Texas.”
A 1978 A-J story on Patterson described him as “the archetypal good old boy, despite 12 years of residence in New Jersey. His trademarks are the laugh, the rich drawl and the easygoing manner.”
Ken Murray, a longtime Tech trainer who’s now retired, said Patterson was a liaison for players, other coaches and even faculty.
“He was the papa of the coaching staff,” Murray said. “He sort of took care of everybody. If they had issues or problems and needed to get things done, they’d go to Punkin, and Punkin would usually take care of whatever the issues were.”
Murray said Patterson also seemed to be the one to give nicknames to staffers’ children, players or even other coaches.
“Always happy. Always had a big smile on his face,” Murray said. “He made the whole staff close.”
In 1981, Patterson went with Dockery to Memphis State as athletic director and assistant football coach. He resigned as AD after only 15 months, citing health concerns and overwork. He was defensive line coach for the USFL’s Memphis Showboats before he retired from coaching in 1986. He scouted part-time for three NFL teams.
One of Patterson’s children, Bill, became a longtime Texas high school coach with head-coaching stops at Canyon, Garland Naaman Forest, Justin Northwest and Sherman, where he coached in 2014-15.
Bob Patterson was a four-sport, 13-time varsity letterman at his high school in New Jersey. He spent two football seasons at Tennessee before transferring for his last two years at Memphis State, where he made Little All-American as a guard in 1954.
He was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Associated Press quoted Yvonne Savage, an administrative assistant at Twin Oaks Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home in Southaven, Mississippi, saying Patterson died Monday at Methodist Hospice in Memphis.
A visitation is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and a memorial service for Patterson is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, both at Colonial Hills Church in Southaven.