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.