Former Washington coach Don James dies of pancreatic cancer

Former Washington coach Don James, who led the Huskies to a national championship in 1991, passed away Sunday morning from the effects of pancreatic cancer.

James was 81 and died comfortably at home surrounded by friends and family, according to a release by the University of Washington.

“My family and I are extremely saddened to hear of Coach James’ passing,” current Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said in a statement. “His accomplishments as a football coach stand alone, but what made him truly special is the quality of man he was away from the game. The guidance and leadership he instilled into this program and community are still felt today, and will continue to be felt here for a long, long time.”

James spent 18 seasons at Washington and led the Huskies to six conference titles. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997 with a career record of 178-76-3.

James started his head coaching career at Kent State where he coached Nick Saban, Jack Lambert and Gary Pinkel. Pinkel and Saban would later go on to coach under him. James’ coaching tree also includes Jim Mora (Sr. and Jr.), Dom Capers and many others.

"Coach James was my mentor and probably did more than anybody to influence me in this profession," Saban said in a statement. "Like I’ve said before, I didn’t plan on going into coaching. He saw something in me and asked me to stay on at Kent State as a graduate assistant after my playing career was over. I really enjoyed it, got hired full time and went on from there.

"He was always personal and inspirational to players and people around him. He wanted you to reach your full potential as a football player, but more importantly, he wanted you to do well in school and become the best person you could be so you would be successful in life. He was the same way when it came to assistant coaches or anyone who worked for him, you were a better person because of the time you spent with Coach James."

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter!