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Arena football

Coaches bring clashing beliefs to ArenaBowl

Tim Marcum focuses on defense, Danny White on offense. Both win often.

By FRANK PASTOR
Published June 21, 2003

TAMPA - Arizona Rattlers coach Danny White possesses one of the brightest offensive minds in the Arena Football League. He's an innovator, introducing misdirection and screen passes to what had been a drop-back-and-throw-deep league.

The Storm's Tim Marcum has only a half-dozen offensive plays he uses. He's a defensive guy whose teams pride themselves on physical play.

White keeps his cards close to his vest. Marcum puts his on the table and says, "Beat me."

When the two coaches with the most wins in league history meet in ArenaBowl XVII Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum, it will be a classic matchup of offense vs. defense.

Marcum and White were quarterbacks (White for Arizona State and the Dallas Cowboys), but the similarity ends there. The fact they are playing for the ultimate prize merely proves there is more than one way to win in the Arena League.

"When you look at the success they've had, both of them, it's amazing," Arizona quarterback Sherdrick Bonner said. "When you have coaches who can be upset with a 10-4 season or a 9-5 season, that tells you what they're used to.

"Both of those guys are winners. They want to win at all costs. They want to get it done from the players around them, and they don't like to accept anything less than that."

Marcum and White are used to unparalleled success.

Marcum is the league's all-time leader in victories (157), postseason victories (24) and winning percentage (.731). His 10 ArenaBowl appearances and six championships, including two with the Storm, are more than any coach.

"Without him, who knows where we'd be," Storm owner Peter "Woody" Kern said. "He's obviously the major cog in this whole thing."

White (128) is the only other Arena coach with more than 100 victories. In his 12th season, all with Arizona, he has two titles in three trips to the final.

Together, they are the only active coaches in the league's Hall of Fame.

"They're the two winningest coaches in the league just because they do things the right way," Storm lineman Sai Poulivaati said. "You look at both, and they've been to the playoffs every year. And it starts with the coaching staff."

Each runs his team his way.

White is demanding yet relaxed. He respects his players and expects the same in return. His team's success is based on execution and dedication to a system.

Marcum brings red-faced intensity. His team, like its coach, thrives on emotion.

"He's a Mike Ditka-type guy," Arizona receiver/linebacker Hunkie Cooper said.

Marcum is hands-on, employing only two assistants and directing his team from the field throughout the game. White has four assistants and relinquishes control to former Bears safety Doug Plank when Arizona is on defense.

Marcum is a proven talent evaluator who builds his team around a strong pass rush and teaches natural defensive linemen to pass block. Offensively, he prefers the direct route, straight down the field.

"He has pretty much the same game plan for every game," Storm defensive specialist Omarr Smith said. "You know what we're going to do, but can you stop us, basically?"

White prefers to mix things up, allowing pass rushers to get upfield then throwing to fullbacks or tight ends behind them.

He is not afraid to take chances, once calling for an onside kick on the opening kickoff.

"I think Danny has had a lot to do with innovation of plays and so forth, and we're all kind of copycats," Marcum said. "If something works, then put it in. Danny has done an excellent job bringing the offenses forward."

Still, with a 50-yard field and eight men on each side, there is only so much a team can do.

"Offensively, you want to get the ball to the guy in high motion (toward the line of scrimmage) because he has an advantage," Smith said. "You want to protect long enough so the quarterback can get rid of the ball and play some good special teams.

"There are a few wrinkles you can throw in here and there, but for the most part, it's all about executing the things that work."

So far, Marcum's way has worked better. Of his 10 head-to-head meetings against White, he won seven, including two of three in the postseason.

"There is no question around this league who the dean is," White said.

For all of their success, they have not met in an ArenaBowl before Sunday.

"That's the way it should be," White said. "It should be a classic matchup."

Offense? Defense? We'll see.

[Last modified June 21, 2003, 01:17:59]


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