Dick Nolan, a former NFL defensive back who also coached the New Orleans Saints, had been in declining health with Alzheimer's disease and prostate cancer for several years. He spent the last few months at an assisted-care facility in the Dallas area, near his longtime home with his wife, Ann.
Dick Nolan played nine NFL seasons before becoming a coach, assisting Hall of Famer Tom Landry in Dallas and going 71-85-3 in nearly 11 seasons as head coach with San Francisco and New Orleans. He led the perennially downtrodden 49ers to 56 wins, three division titles and two conference championship games in eight years with the club.
"My father always projected an image of authority, and I wanted to honor him -- the way he lived his life and his whole career as a coach," Mike Nolan said.
"He made himself into not just a good player, he was an extraordinary player," former teammate Frank Gifford told the New York Daily News earlier this year. "He didn't have the physical talent to do it all. He just willed himself. He was smart. He was tough -- as good as there comes in that respect."
San Francisco went 7-6-1 in his first season before breaking through in 1970, going 10-3-1 and getting the 49ers' first playoff win at Minnesota before falling to Dallas in the NFC title game.
But the 49ers slumped to three consecutive losing seasons after their playoff appearances, and the same fans who once hailed Nolan as their savior booed the Niners and cheered for Nolan's departure.
"That was the toughest time, but that's the life of a coach," Mike Nolan said. "My dad never took it personally, and he didn't take it personally when it happened again in New Orleans."
Nolan is survived by his wife and six children. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press