Coach Sam “The Rock” Adams passes away

Sam Adams, retired UCSB head coach and former assistant at Westmont College, died on Monday evening January 11.  He passed quietly under the gentle care of his wife, Sue.  Sam had suffered through Alzheimer’s disease the last few years but handled himself with great dignity as was his want, and Sue managed his care in the same manner.

Sam competed in the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Trials in the decathlon. The ’52 Trials was Sam’s first decathlon ever as he came right out of the Army to compete. He just missed making the team in ’56.  Sam was a UC Berkeley graduate and former head coach Brutus Hamilton said in his book that “Sam Adams was the greatest athlete I ever coached”

Sam Adams is shown above in 1992, the last of his 34 years as a track-and-field coach at UCSB, where he achieved an international reputation.

Sam Adams is shown above in 1992, the last of his 34 years as a track and field coach at UCSB, where he achieved an international reputation.

In his era, Sam was one of the great tri-throwers with his combined bests in the javelin, discus and shot put.

He came to UCSB as assistant coach under 1928 Olympian Nick Carter. As a Santa Ynez native, Sam essentially came home to UCSB.  He developed a devoted following of athletes who were drawn to and tried to impress ‘The Rock.”

Sam had few words to say and wasn’t long on encouraging words. What he did was model commitment, steadfast belief and solid character in his role as a track & field coach.  To have Sam say “That wasn’t so bad” to an athlete would have fired them up for a week of training.

In 1984, as director of the Santa Barbara Outreach program, Sam had 18 qualifiers to the Olympic Trials in the decathlon.  He was also coaching Jane Frederick in 1984 and during a large portion of her stellar career.  Sam remained a believer in scoring dual meets, doing things the right way (his way) and letting athletes find a way to succeed.

Based on the devotion of his former athletes and friends, Sam lived a life that affected us all and made us want to do our best.  His presence has been sorely missed as the Alzheimer’s stole his memory, but his presence of dignity and strength remained to the last.

A service will be Saturday, January 23 at 11 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State Street.

Comments

  1. Harry Marra says:

    Sam Adams was a ” giant ” both in life and in his profession of coaching young athletes. The so many great athletes he developed and coached pale in comparision to the great number of human beings he developed. We all love you Sam and we will all dearly miss your wisdom.
    Coach Harry Marra

  2. Tom Pagani says:

    “What you see is what you get,” best describes Sam. He was honest, he was forthright, he was direct. He was not the kind of guy who was in you face, but you always knew where you stood and what he thought. More often than not, he was right on.
    His love of the decathlon was obvious and infectious. If he couldn't convince you that it was the best event in track and field no one could. He championed the event and gave it a life that it would not have seen were it not for his enthusiasm.
    He was the best. A great guy.
    Tom Pagani

  3. Sam inspired and mentored a generation of athletes with passion and amazing leadership. He wasn't one for big gestures but his passion for the decathlon and track was made evident in the way he coached and led. I will not forget the selfless act of mentorship and coaching he shared with me..a mere runner doing her best to recover from an running injury.

    He leadership and passion was an inspiration to me and I will not forget the impact he has made on my life. The time in Santa Barbara was relatively short. The wisdom learned from his leadership are lasting a lifetime and helping me to share with others what he selflessly gave to me.

    Thank you Sam, I will miss you
    You will not be forgotten

  4. rickfields says:

    I too, am proud of my association with Sam while competing as a Gaucho trackster. He refused to be called “Coach Adams” and insisted on “Sam”. He truly was “The Rock” – steadfast in his guidance of young men during impressionable times of our lives. I was lucky to have run into Sam and Sue recently at a local SB restaurant as I was passing through town. I was struck at how little he had changed since my college days. Sam was so patient with everyone, regardless of your position or place on the team, or even if you were not on the team – he was willing to help anyone who asked and was willing to work in return. The distance guys were notorious for goofing off, but all it took was one look from Sam and we knew it was time to get to work.
    I recall his retirement dinner at UCSB several years ago and was struck by the number of people who came out to help him celebrate, including several world-class athletes. Sam wrote a thank you note, which I still have. I'll miss you Sam – Thank You.
    Rick Fields

  5. rickfields says:

    I too, am proud of my association with Sam while competing as a Gaucho trackster. He refused to be called “Coach Adams” and insisted on “Sam”. He truly was “The Rock” – steadfast in his guidance of young men during impressionable times of our lives. I was lucky to have run into Sam and Sue recently at a local SB restaurant as I was passing through town. I was struck at how little he had changed since my college days. Sam was so patient with everyone, regardless of your position or place on the team, or even if you were not on the team – he was willing to help anyone who asked and was willing to work in return. The distance guys were notorious for goofing off, but all it took was one look from Sam and we knew it was time to get to work.
    I recall his retirement dinner at UCSB several years ago and was struck by the number of people who came out to help him celebrate, including several world-class athletes. Sam wrote a thank you note, which I still have. I'll miss you Sam – Thank You.
    Rick Fields

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