Coach George Doherty

Submitted by Billy Hathorn, Class of 1966

George E. Doherty (September 5, 1920 - December 31, 1987) was a National Football League player from 1944-1947, who thereafter was the defensive coach of the Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs in Ruston and the head coach of the Northwestern State University Demons in Natchitoches from 1972-1974.

Early years and education

Doherty was born in Canton, the seat of Madison County in central Mississippi, where he successfully played football in high school. He then attended Mississippi State University (then College) in Starkville for a year. He subsequently transferred to Louisiana Tech, where he played as a right tackle with the Bulldogs for three seasons in the Louisiana Intercollegiate Conference. In 1945, he procured his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Tech. He also obtained a master's degree from George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, which qualified him to teach mathematics at the secondary school level.

National Football League

Doherty played professionally, first, with the former Brooklyn Tigers in 1944, when he was declared "Rookie of the Year". He was twice named to the NFL "All Pro" team. He continued with the former Boston Yanks in 1945, the former Buffalo Bisons and the former New York Yankees in 1946, and finally with the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo, New York, in 1947.

While he was in California playing the former Los Angeles Rams (1946-1995), Doherty claimed to have kissed the actress Carole Landis, sat beside Joan Caulfield on a bench, visited in the home of the crooner Bing Crosby, and been feted at the Brown Derby restaurant by the celebrity Don Ameche.

High school coaching

After he left professional football, Doherty began coaching in 1948 at Stamps High School in Stamps in Lafayette County (pronounced LEH FAY ETTE) in southwestern Arkansas. There he turned around a winless year into two district championships and one second-place statewide.

In 1950, he came to Minden, the seat of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana, where he taught physical education and mathematics, including geometry, and coached the Minden High School Crimson Tide through 1957, mostly during the principalship of his close friend Wayne Wynn Williams, Sr. When Doherty arrived, MHS had won only one football games in the past three seasons. Doherty turned things around to the extent that the Crimson Tide won the 1952 district championship with a 9-2 record. "We went from the bottom of the list to the top of the list in a short time," Williams, who served as the parish superintendent from 1973-1978, recalled.

In 1953, the Crimson Tide again won the district championship with a 9-2 record. The final game, played on Thanksgiving Day afternoon against the in-parish rival, the Springhill Lumberjacks, was particularly gratifying to Doherty because the Springhill team then included future Heisman Trophy winner, John David Crow.

Minden under Doherty also defeated arch-rival Haynesville (northern Claiborne Parish) for the first time in a quarter century. In 1954, with a 13-1 record, the team won the state championship. That was followed by another district championship in 1955 and a second state championship, again with a 13-1 record, in 1956. One of Doherty's players in 1956 was Billy Joe Booth, who later starred for Louisinaa State University in Baton Rouge and then played for nine years with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League. Shreveport sports writers began referring to Minden as the "Home of the Champions".

After the first state championship in 1954, Doherty accepted the head coach position at 3-A Bolton High School in Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish, but he stayed just three days and promptly returned to the 2-A Minden High School. Williams said that Doherty had the penchant for making an average player into a great player: "It seemed every year, he was getting five to nine players a scholarship to Tech. Sometimes they even referred to Louisiana Tech as 'Minden Tech'."

Louisiana Tech coach

Doherty left MHS in 1957 to become the defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, a position that he held until 1966. While at Tech, his teams set six school records and won or held five Gulf States Conference championships. Williams' son, Wayne Williams, Jr., like his father a Webster Parish school superintendent, played under Doherty at Tech as did Ronnie Brown, also of Minden who became an educator and principal. Williams, Jr., described his former coach as "a very intense man on the football field and off the field one of the nicest and calmest persons you could meet."

While the defensive coach at Tech under Joe Aillet, Doherty had a heart attack, was sidelined, and temporarily replaced by Jimmy Johnson, later the coach of the University of Miami Hurricanes and the Miami Dolphins.

Later years in Natchitoches

In 1967, Doherty accepted the same defensive coordinator position at Tech's football rival, Northwestern State. In 1972, Doherty was promoted to head coach and led the NSU to an 8-2 record and the Gulf South Conference championship. He retired in 1974, with a 15-17 record at Northwestern.

Doherty was also a fisherman, who spent hours on Black Lake in Natchitoches Parish. W. W. Williams recalled that the two often fished but never on Sunday.

Doherty's wife, Mary Jeanne Doherty (born ca. 1924) taught English. The couple had a son, George Michael "Mike" Doherty (born ca. 1952). Doherty lived in Natchitoches during his retirement years. He died of a heart attack on New Year's Eve 1987. He is honored through the naming of the George Doherty Wing, which houses the NSU football offices in Natchitoches, as well as the George Doherty Football Scholarship.

Some two hundred persons, including former and current coaches and former players under Doherty, attended services in the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Natchitoches.