Former Georgia coach Vince Dooley enjoying days as gardener, author

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To quench his horticultural thirst, Vince Dooley decided to sit in on a course 15 years ago at Georgia.

Legendary Georgia football coach Vince Dooley signs copies of his latest books for fans at Kroger on Washington Road on Tuesday.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Legendary Georgia football coach Vince Dooley signs copies of his latest books for fans at Kroger on Washington Road on Tuesday.

The former Bulldogs football coach and athletic director thought attending the class would rid of him his new obsession with plants and trees. Instead, it just made him love his new hobby that much more.

“I am thoroughly enjoying my horticultural career,” Dooley said. “It’s good for the body, the mind and the soul. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad day in the garden.”

The 79-year-old Dooley signed copies of Vince Dooley’s Garden: A Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach, along with other recent books Tuesday at Kroger on Washington Road. Two years ago, he penned Dooley’s Playbook: The 34 Most Memorable Plays in Georgia Football History, and he just finished History and Reminiscences of the University of Georgia, his third book with artist Steve Penley.

“We started out doing one book and it led to another,” Dooley said. “I guess I’m a person who’s always stayed busy.”

Dooley is traveling around the state signing books at various Kroger stores. He still has trips to make in Atlanta, Dalton, Macon and Savannah – all before Christmas.

Dooley, who retired from Georgia after his 25th season in 1988, still is a keen observer of college football. The 201-game winner believes the national championship matchup between Louisiana State University and Alabama is perfect.

“I think those are the two best teams I’ve ever seen in the conference at one time,” he said. “They both have tremendous power and speed.”

Dooley said his son, Derek, will be OK after struggling through his second season as head coach at Tennessee. The Vols went 5-7, with five of those losses to top-20 teams.

“He inherited a tough situation,” the elder Dooley said. “It’s kind of a perfect bad situation.”

Whenever Dooley needs to get away from football, he works in his 21/2-acre garden. While he enjoys camellias and hydrangeas – there’s a variety of each plant named after the famous coach – Dooley said his favorites are the Japanese maples.

During Masters Week, Dooley makes an annual visit to Augusta National Golf Club. Because of his love of horticulture, he doesn’t pay much attention to the action inside the ropes.

“I find myself walking around the golf course looking at trees and plants instead of golf,” he said. “I don’t play golf. So I spend a lot of time in the garden. That is my golf.”


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