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Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram dead at 82

Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram, who took the Kansas City Chiefs to two Super Bowls and was known for his inventive game plans and exuberance on the sideline, died, his family said. He was 82.

NEW ORLEANS (July 4, 2005) -- Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram, who took the Kansas City Chiefs to two Super Bowls and was known for his inventive game plans and exuberance on the sideline, died, his family said. He was 82.

Stram had been in declining health for several years and Dale Stram attributed his father's death to complications from diabetes. He died at St. Tammany Parish Hospital, near his home in Covington, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. He built a home there during his two-year stint as coach of the Saints and retired there.

"Pro football has lost one of its most innovative and creative coaches and one of its most innovative and creative personalities as well," Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt said in a telephone interview.

Stram was the Chiefs' first and winningest coach. He took over the expansion Dallas Texans of the upstart AFL in 1960 and coached them through 1974, moving with them to Kansas City where they were renamed the Chiefs in 1963.

The gregarious, stocky, blazer-wearing Stram carried a rolled up game plan in his hand as he paced the sideline. He led the Chiefs to AFL titles in 1962, '66 and '69 and to appearances in the first Super Bowl, a 35-10 loss to Green Bay, and the fourth, a 23-7 victory over Minnesota in 1970.

He had a 124-76-10 record with the Chiefs and in 17 seasons as a head coach was 131-97-10 in the regular season and 5-3 in the postseason.

Stram was credited with the two-tight end offense that provided an extra blocker.

He was the first coach to wear a microphone during a Super Bowl and Stram's sideline antics, captured by NFL Films, helped bring the league into the video age.

Stram later coached two seasons with the Saints and enjoyed a successful second career in CBS' television and Monday Night Football radio booths as an analyst.

Stram made his mark in the booth by consistently telling the audience what would happen before it did.

"I think they'll go deep here," he would tell his partner, Jack Buck.

"Elway to throw," Buck would respond. "He's looking deep. He throws deep. Caught by Steve Sewell at the 11-yard line. You called that one, coach."

"John just saw what I saw," Stram would say.

Stram was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. The then-80-year-old had to be pushed onto the stage in a wheelchair and his induction speech was videotaped.

In an interview that year, Stram said he would accept another coaching job in a minute.

"I've lived a charmed life," he said. "I married the only girl I ever loved and did the only job I ever loved."

Len Dawson, the Hall of Fame quarterback who played under Stram at Kansas City, also called him an innovator.

"He was responsible for doing a lot of the things in the '60s that teams are still using now," said Dawson, citing the moving pocket and the triple stack defense.

"His whole life was football that's what he was born for, I think. He had a passion for it, not just a liking," Dawson said. "He was really sincere when he talked about the team being a family. Everybody really loved him."

Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier, who played for the Chiefs under Stram, said his former coach was able to elevate his players to new levels of success.

"All of us had a great joy in being able to experience the sport at the level we did because of his creative mind and the kind of personality that he put around you," he said from his home in Midlothian, Va. "That allowed everyone to perform at levels higher than they would have without him."

Hunt hired Stram, then an assistant at Miami, Fla., in 1959 after Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson and then-New York Giants assistant Tom Landry turned down the team.

"He had never been a head coach before and you never know how that's going to work out. In our case it worked out tremendously. I think it worked out great for his career, too, because he ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Hunt said. "He deserves to be there."

Stram is survived by his wife Phyllis, sons Henry, Dale, Stu and Gary, daughters Julia and Mary Nell, and a sister, Dolly.

His sons said a private memorial service was being planned for later this week.

*Sports Writers Mary Foster in New Orleans and Doug Tucker in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report. *

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