As charming as former University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley was at a $250-per-ticket fundraiser in Sequoyah Hills last week (see previous post), he was even more engaging at a much cheaper-ticket event the following evening at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum. More than 150 garden lovers showed up to buy copies of Dooley’s new book, “Vince Dooley’s Garden: A Horticultural Adventure of a Football Coach.” Dooley, the father of UT football coach Derek Dooley, signed every copy.
Here are some remarks from his speech to the gardeners:
- Dooley said he loves weeping plants, those with long tendrils that cascade towards the ground. On his property in Athens, Ga., he has planted a variety of weeping plants along a creek, which he has dubbed “Weepers’ Creek.” “On many a Saturday night after we lost a football game, I’d go down there and weep with the weepers,” he said.
- Dooley said he had gone “from pigskins to prunes” and from “field goals to marigolds!”
- “I used to drive around the campus looking at the pretty coeds,” he said. “Now I drive around looking at the pretty plants. I see the beauty in both.”
- Dooley said one of the benefits of living near a university is that you have the ability to audit courses on any subject that might interest you. That’s why he took a course in horticulture. “In that course, I got bitten by the bug,” he said. “Then it became an infection.”
- During an interview with two local TV stations, Dooley said that gardens are “good for the mind, good for the body, and good for the soul.”
- Dooley narrated a slide show about his personal gardens, which are spectacular. “A garden is a living, breathing work of art,” he said.
- On the other hand, writing a book seemed to be more of a challenge for him. “Writing a book starts as an adventure,” he confided. “Then it becomes a lover. Then it becomes a tyrant. Then it becomes a joy — when it is over!”
Dooley’s wife, Barbara, was a stitch as she threw in comments from her seat on the front row. Former UT coach Johnny Majors and his wife, Mary Lynn, attended the event, as did former Knoxville mayor and Ambassador Victor Ashe and mayoral candidate Madeline Rogero.