Early in his career, Tony Levine, the first-year head coach at the University of Houston, lived among the dead–and no, it wasn’t an extended acid trip with fellow fans of Jerry Garcia.
Levine’s initial stop on his coaching ladder placed him in San Marcos at what was then known as Southwest Texas State. They’ve since dropped the direction from their name. As a graduate assistant, he made pennies compared to his salary as the Cougars’ head coach and also didn’t own a car. It’s 1997, you’re without wheels, dirt poor and need somewhere within walking distance of your job so you can sing that new jam “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy away from the claustrophobia of the bus.
The upstart native of Minnesota found solace in the Pennington Funeral Home. Destructive hours breaking down film and plenty of nights at the office probably precluded Levine from enjoying the company of his stiff neighbors. Not knowing his marital or relationship status at the time, can you imagine going on a date and attempting to avoid any straight answer about your residence?
Girl: So you’re downtown? That’s cool. Where?
Tony: It’s a quiet little place, nothing fancy and I pray each night no one wakes up.
Tony: (nervous laughter) Yeah, parties are normally subdued but it’s the place to be when your clock hits zero. Damnit Tony, you’re doing it again!
As a fan of anything that makes for an interesting story, I applaud Levine for his humor on the subject and conquering his fear of full moons later in life. And if there was any question as to the veracity of the funeral home, Bill Pennington was recently named Funeral Director of the Year by the Texas Funeral Directors’ Association.
He’s a diehard. Alright, I’m done.