Mike Holmgren Is Still Learning His Retirement Playbook

Published on March 30, 2009 by     Seahawk Fanatic

holmgrenHis days used to be filled with meetings and practices and appointments, and now Mike Holmgren wakes up to an empty schedule.

Most mornings he looks at his wife, Kathy, and says: “OK, what do you want to do today?”

The former Seahawks coach is more than two months into his “retirement” and sounds like he’s enjoying it. I say “sounds like” because you sense that he’s not completely comfortable with his transition from working man to lounging man.

“I’m trying, I’m trying,” Holmgren said, repeating himself, which leads you to believe he’s failing. This won’t cut it long-term, not now anyway, not at 60. He knows he will go back to work, probably as a GM or coach, maybe as a TV analyst.

He was on NBC’s Super Bowl pregame show and didn’t think he “messed up too badly.” Holmgren actually did very well and could easily make the transition from sideline to studio.

But being directly involved with an NFL team is more appealing, though it won’t happen during the 2009 season. Holmgren made a promise to Kathy, and said he owes it to his wife of 38 years to take a full year off.

Kathy knows it’s hard enough and will really be tempting when the season starts. That’s why she has a trip to Ireland and Scotland planned for September, to get him out of the country and away from the NFL.

His wife is always asking him how he’s feeling, and Holmgren admits to being a little antsy.

“Ya know, for 35 years I could tell you pretty much what I’ll be doing next Thursday at 1:30, or the next month, where I’ll be,” he said. “Now I have no real structure.”

They are spending the winter in Phoenix. Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno is their next-door neighbor, and former Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg lives across the street.

Holmgren’s typical day starts as it always has, working out with his wife. She’s on the bike; he’s on the treadmill watching SportsCenter.

He knows what’s going on in the NFL, knows about the Seahawks’ free-agent signings and likes the acquisition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, saying: “They needed a big wide receiver and got one. That should really help them. He’s a good player.”

In reference to the Seahawks, he’s already gone from “we” and “us” to “they” and “them.” It’s part of the plan.

“I’m trying not to read the paper too much, trying not to listen to talk radio,” Holmgren said. “I’m interested in free agency, but I’m trying not to think too much about the Seahawks and what they’re doing. I’m trying to distance myself a little bit to get a clear picture of how I feel about this.”

After the workout, Kathy and Mike will have coffee and their daily devotional and figure out what they want to do the rest of the day. She usually has a list of chores for him, and Holmgren tries to get them done in the morning.

He’s proud to tell you that he recently put up a mop-holding hook in the laundry room and installed an outdoor contraption to curl up the garden hose. It’s also his responsibility to keep the pool and the decks clean.

“I contend, though you’d get an argument, that if I have the proper tools, I can go pretty good,” he said. “But nah, I’m not real handy.”

He begs off some household jobs because of his size, saying he doesn’t fit into small spaces. It’s an excuse, and it works with some chores but not with others.

“I was severely chastised the other day for not putting out the garbage cans,” Holmgren said. “I was reminded, but I forgot to do it, and that’s kind of my job.”

In the afternoons, you’re most apt to find him reading by the pool. He just finished “The Gate House” by Nelson DeMille and recently read “Escape” by Robert Tannenbaum.

His wife wants him to read another book, “How to Enjoy Retirement.” Holmgren keeps pushing that one aside, and Kathy keeps pulling it out and putting it in front of him again.

Holmgren pokes fun at the smiling couple on the cover, saying: “They look like the happiest people you’ve ever seen in your life, like Ward and June Cleaver.” He’s not buying it, another sign that he’s not ready to stop working for good.

If he’s not at the pool, you might see him on his new Harley, the one that his players gave him as a going-away gift. Recently, he went to Superstition Mountain and had a great time learning about the Lost Dutchman Mine and seeing the rock formations.

If it’s a Tuesday afternoon, you’ll find the Holmgrens at a movie theater near the Biltmore Plaza, catching a matinee and taking advantage of the “senior” admission prices. They saw all of the Academy Award nominees for best picture. Their evenings are spent mostly at home. In the past, they’d frequently go out for dinner, but they’re watching their weight. Holmgren has a Jenny Craig counselor just like he did in Seattle. He has lost 32 pounds since he started with the program last spring. But he hasn’t lost or gained a pound since the season ended.

“I’m maintaining,” he said. “I’m not quite as serious and disciplined about it as I was. I just have to buckle down. When your day’s not as structured, I think it’s a little harder.”

After dinner, he’ll walk his bulldog, Maxine, and play an online game of Spider Solitaire before bed.

Last week the Holmgrens had a family reunion with their daughters and grandchildren at DisneyWorld in Orlando. They will be in Seattle in April to attend Easter services at Highland Covenant Church, where Holmgren’s son-in-law is the pastor.

In May, Kathy and daughter/doctor Calla are heading to Africa on another relief mission, and guess who will be in Salt Lake City to babysit Calla’s 8-year-old daughter while she’s gone? Grandpa Mike.

This summer the Holmgrens will live in their new home in Santa Cruz, Calif., before returning to their Kirkland condo in the fall. That’s when it will get extremely tough.

“As it gets closer to the season, I’ll probably want to get going,” he said. “But I’m going to try to be honest about all this stuff. I’ll try to enjoy every day. After 35 years (in football), my life has to be different to draw the comparison.”

Next January is when you’ll want to keep a closer eye on Holmgren. He’s off having his fun now, but that’s when the promise to his wife ends and the next chapter begins. There will be foundering teams with job openings, and a future Hall of Famer figures to be a receptive candidate.

“I’m going to work again,” Holmgren said.

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