Gallagher column: No hard feelings from former Livingstone coach Massey

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 30, 2008

Saturday was the first time Robert Massey had been back to Salisbury ó and the first time he had walked the turf of Alumni Stadium ósince being unceremoniously dumped as head coach of the Livingstone Blue Bears two seasons ago.
After Shaw romped to a 55-7 victory, Massey, a Shaw assistant, didn’t gloat one bit. As far as he’s concerned, many of the current Blue Bears are still his guys. He recruited them. And you know he’s been sneaking a peek or two at the Internet to see how Livingstone has been doing.
He hasn’t been disappointed.
“Some of those guys are doing well,” Massey said. “I realize now I wasn’t as bad as they made me think I was.”

Massey laughed but he remembers how he got little support from those enigmatic higher-ups on Monroe Street. He felt confused and frustrated much of his time here. Winning two games in two years didn’t help any, either.
But while the Livingstone family disowned him, the former All-Pro defensive back had another family ó a fraternity of coaches who backed him.
One of his buddies was Darrell Asberry, who had taken over the head coaching duties at Shaw. They were both assistants under Rod Broadway at North Carolina Central. Those two talked regularly while Massey languished at Livingstone.
“He told me, ‘If they fire you, you’ve got a job. Let me know when you’re ready to come to work,’ ” Massey said.
It was an easy transition for Massey. He had actually coached a couple of the assistants and had coached with a few more. He took over the defensive backs.
“It was like a homecoming,” he said. “I’m doing well. I’m happy.”

He should be. He is recruiting from Tennessee to the West Coast so he’s getting to fly. Shaw is the CIAA’s defending champ and is favored to make it back to the title game at Durham County Stadium next month.
But for one day, Massey had returned to the site of his first head coaching job. More than seeing old friends, he got to watch his son, Robert Massey-Brice, a linebacker, and his nephew, William Massey, a defensive back, from the opposite sideline. If nothing else, Massey knows that’s one positive of being at Livingstone.
“Two of the beauties of it all,” he said, “was I got my son and nephew in college.”
His son is arguably Livingstone’s best player. He scored the Blue Bears’ only touchdown on an interception return. He finished with 18 tackles and is the CIAA’s Linebacker of the Week.
“He’s not a bad player,” mused Massey, who used to talk to young Robert about the game.
“When I watched him in high school, I’d critique him hard,” Massey laughed. “He understood. I give him a little love now.”
To prove Massey’s been eyeing the internet, he pointed out William is tenth in the country in pass breakups and Massey-Brice is second in the nation in forced fumbles.
“I stick my chest out, man,” he smiled. “I’m proud of them.”
Massey was asked why his son didn’t follow him to Shaw.
“You know what? I told him not to follow me,” Massey said. “He’s grounded, he’s close to home. His grandmother’s in Charlotte. He has support here. I’m just a phone call away.”

Massey has met Massie, as in Lamont Massie, the man who replaced him. Massie’s in his second season and Massey wishes him the best. He likes what his successor has done as far as whipping the Blue Bears in shape.
“He’s a good guy,” Massey said. “He’s doing it right. If you want a good program, you’ve got to have discipline. It’s good to have athleticism, but you must have discipline.
“Defensively, they’re not a bad team. Chris Peoples is good. (Quarterback) Steven (Williams) is the one I brought in. They have a chance to be a good team.”
They weren’t on Saturday as Shaw ran up the score until the bitter end. That’s when Massey gave a few more hugs to his former guys.
“It’s like pro football,” he said. “We’ll go out there with blood, sweat and tears and try to win, but after the game you thank God everybody’s healthy and say, ‘I love you guys and wish you the best.’ ”
Massey says he still aspires to be a head coach again and he’ll remember his days at Livingstone.
“It was a learning experience,” he said. “I had a great time. I enjoyed it.”
Until his premature firing.
“It’s the nature of the beast,” Massey shrugged. “I wish I would’ve had another year to turn things around.
“It just didn’t happen.”

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or