SEATTLE – Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren got his start in professional football under Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh. On Monday, when he received the news his mentor had passed away, Holmgren said he was relieved for Walsh.
Walsh had battled leukemia for more than a year before he succumbed to the disease. Holmgren likened it to when he lost his mother two years ago after a lengthy illness.
"You never quite know how you're going to react to news like this. I remember when my mother – we were very close and I loved her dearly – passed away, and my sister called me and said she had passed," Holmgren said. "(My mother) had been with us in Green Bay and had been confined to a bed for five years, maybe four years. So her quality of life was just brutal. Her mind was OK, which was good.
"But the feeling I had when I heard the news was honestly – and my sisters were very upset and I was upset myself – there was a sense of relief and joy for her. She was a Christian, and I believed she was in heaven the minute she passed and she was out of that bed, running around and laughing. At that particular time I had that feeling, and with Bill, even though I knew it was coming, it makes you think about the times you were together and the impact he had on my life."
Holmgren was in a meeting with his coaching staff after the morning practice when Walsh's son Craig called to relay the news. Shortly after that, Holmgren and members of his coaching staff who worked or played for Walsh talked about the coaching giant.
"I was not in his group of close friends," Holmgren said. "He had his close friends, like the Mike Whites and such, guys who were his guys. But I did work for him, and we had a professional relationship that later turned into what I think was a friendship. It makes you think about all the times, and you laugh about some stuff, you get mad about some stuff. … But really, the feeling was a little like my mom, the sense of relief because he's been battling this for a year. He fought the good fight, and now it's done."
Holmgren said he planned to write something for a program that will be distributed at Walsh's funeral. He also hopes to attend services for Walsh but hasn't received any information on when they would be held.