The sports world is mourning the passing of Jim Fassel, the New York Giants’ former head coach. Fassel led the Big Blue from 1997 to 2003, where he and his players achieved great success. Fassel was admitted to the hospital on Monday after experiencing chest pains in his Las Vegas home and died a few hours later from a heart attack. Fassel was 71 years old.
Fassel was born on August 31, 1949 in Anaheim, California. As a young person, Fassel showed an early interest in football and played quarterback for a number of teams in college, including Fullerton College and the University of Southern California. During the 1972 draft, the Chicago Bears brought Fassel aboard as a 7th round pick. Two years later, Fassel joined the Hawaiians of the burgeoning World Football League. The Hawaiians also gave Fassel his first coaching position as an assistant offensive coach. After leaving the Hawaiians, Fassel worked as an assistant coach for several college teams, including the University of Utah. In 1985, Fassel became Utah’s head coach, his first time as leader of a team. While coaching at the collegiate level, Fassel mentored several future NFL stars, including John Elway.
Fassel began coaching in the NFL in 1991 and worked with several teams, including the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens, before becoming the Giants’ head coach. As leader of the Giants, Fassel handled the team with great competency, the NFL naming him Coach of the Year in 1997. The Giants also won the 2000 NFC championship due to Fassel’s coaching ability. Looking back at his time with the team, Fassel said that his term as chief of the Giants was the best part of his coaching career. Fassel also recalled seeing the team through the tumultuous time after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In one of the most humbling moments of his career, Fassel visited firemen and rescue workers at the World Trade Center site, cheering them on and offering his thanks. After leaving the Giants, Fassel served as a consultant for the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive team and head coach for the Las Vegas Locomotives before retiring from the sport in 2012.
After news of Fassel’s death broke earlier this week, tributes came in from across the sports world. Michael Strahan, a former Giants defensive player and current anchor for Good Morning America, said that he appreciates everything Fassel did for his career and loved his time as coach. The official team Twitter pages for the Giants and the Broncos also paid tribute to the late coach and offered condolences to his family.