Bill Cowher enjoying a far different life away from coaching
LOS ANGELES - Bill Cowher appeared completely at ease, nary a sign of that familiar intense look he wore on the sidelines during 15 years as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Suddenly, and for the only time during a lengthy interview Tuesday, his body language changed briefly while he spoke of a new endeavor -- playing the piano.
It seems his teacher, Kim Russ, is pretty demanding.
"You've got to practice three or four times a week. She can tell when I don't," Cowher said. "She doesn't make me run laps or anything, but she gets on me pretty good if I don't practice enough.
"I walk out of there, my back's hurting, my neck's knotted up, and my fingers are really sore. I told her I had a bad pinkie, she said she wanted to hear results -- she doesn't want excuses."
Ah, the rigors of retirement.
Actually, Cowher said he's having a great time, and chuckled about the irony of a piano teacher getting on him perhaps the same way he got on his players. He said he wanted to learn how to play the piano for years, but didn't have time in a profession he remembers as all-encompassing.
"I don't miss it. I find myself sleeping better," he said. "You're not as stress-driven. You learn to cope being a coach. You don't realize it when you're in the middle of it."
Although he's only 50, Cowher insists he doesn't plan to coach again, but knows better than to completely close the door.
"In all honesty, I hope I don't coach again. I have no plans to do it," said Cowher, in Los Angeles to promote DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket. "I don't ever want to say never. I don't want to be a hypocrite. But I have no plans to coach again and I can honestly say I don't see it happening in the near future."
Cowher left the Steelers last January with a long list of accomplishments that might land him in the Hall of Fame someday: a 161-99-1 record; two Super Bowl appearances with one championship; six AFC championship game appearances; and 10 playoff berths.
He didn't stay unemployed long, quickly landing a job with CBS as a studio analyst -- a job that's enabled him to spend more time checking out the entire NFL before the start of a season than he ever had while coaching the Steelers.
"I'm looking forward to the start of the season, doing the CBS thing," he said. "It's still a chance to be part of the game. I spent the Labor Day weekend with my family at the beach. I'm going to move my girls to Princeton next week.
"You can always go back, to coaching. You can't go back to spending time with your family."
And that, Cowher said, was the determining factor in his leaving a job he no doubt could have held for many years, if not the rest of his coaching life.
"After last year, I just thought it was time," he said. "I wanted to spend more time with my family, smell the roses. Balance is really important. It wasn't so much the coaching, it was the fish bowl you live in."
Cowher said while he was very passionate about his job and loved the competition involved in coaching, he was far less intense when he was away from it all.
"You can't be like that all the time," he said. "I never brought my job to my house, I never brought my house to the job. That's why I was able to sustain it all that time."
Cowher and his wife, Kaye, have two daughters at Princeton, Meagan and Lauren. And their youngest daughter, Lindsay, is a junior in high school in Raleigh, N.C.
He said if the expected offers are made, it would be flattering, but there's no way he'd consider coaching before Lindsay finishes high school.
"I'm not going to walk out of her life," he said. "It's nice to have options. It's hard to say what the future holds. I don't have any long-term plans."
As a studio analyst, Cowher will be watching several games at once before offering his opinions. And he'll be a Steelers fan.
"You don't work for people like the Rooneys and at a place like that for 15 years and not pull for them," he said. "A lot of the coaches and players I worked with are still there. I'll always pull for them, but objectively. I'm going to analyze them like anybody else."
Then, after a brief pause, Cowher said with a smile: "Like I was analyzed for the last 15 years."