Aug. 24, 2021

BONUS: The Real-Life Ted Lasso (with Coach Donnie Campbell)

On this bonus episode, Christian and Brett  have a quick but insightful discussion with Jason Sudeikis' high school basketball coach - and inspiration for the character Ted Lasso - Donnie Campbell!


Welcome back to the Crown & Anchor, Greyhounds! On this bonus episode, Christian and Brett  have a quick but insightful discussion with Jason Sudeikis' high school basketball coach - Donnie Campbell!

Sudeikis has shared that the character of Ted Lasso is partially based on his former coach, and we had a ton of fun talking with Coach Donnie about his upbringing in Lyons, Kansas (it's the next town over from us, y'all!), his time playing basketball and football at K-State, and those mentors who have influenced his coaching style and philosophy over the years.

If you're a Ted Lasso fan who's also had a great coach at any level, we think you'll really enjoy this episode. Plus, you may be surprised to find that Ted Lasso's accent sure sounds a whole lot like this rural Kansas boy's endearing drawl.

And Coach still lives near KC, so of course we asked him about barbecue. So maybe don't listen to this episode too close to lunch time. You've been warned.

Discussed On This Episode

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Richmond Til We Die is a conversation about the Apple TV+ show Ted Lasso. A place where fans (and curious newcomers) come together to discuss the characters, their relationships to each other, and how they're able to make us laugh until we can hardly breathe one minute and then feel with the deepest parts of our hearts the next. When you're here, you're a Greyhound!

Transcript

Welcome back to the crown and anchor greyhounds. This is a bonus episode of Richmond Til We Die,  a conversation about the Apple TV plus show Ted lasso, where we explore the characters, their relationships to each other, and how they're able to make us laugh until we can hardly breathe one moment and then feel with the deepest parts of our hearts the next.

 

Christian  

I'm Christian, and my academic background has been geeking out about this opportunity to talk to a Ted Lasso primary source.

 

Brett   

I'm Brett and today I'm going to pretend like I didn't fail at  virtually every basketball game I ever played because Today we have with us a very special guest. Coach Donnie Campbell is currently a math teacher and a basketball coach at Lee's Summit high school just outside of Kansas City. But back in the late 90s. He coached at Shawnee Mission West, a different suburban High School near Kansas City, where one of his players was Jason Sudeikis.

 

Christian  

Sudeikis has openly talked about Campbell as being one of his primary inspirations for the character Ted Lasso. You may have even seen coach Campbell popping up on interviews because he recently did on the Today Show.

 

Brett   

and here's where it gets even Wilder Well, at least for us. Because before coach Campbell met Jason Sudeikis even before he played football and basketball at Kansas State University. Coach Donnie Campbell grew up in Lyons Kansas, a rural town of 3500 people and rice County, Kansas.

 

Christian  

It just so happens that we record our show in Rice County, Kansas, because we live in Rice County, Kansas. Not in Lyons, but eight miles down Highway 14 in the next town over -  a town by the name of Sterling so we obviously know lions well.

 

Brett   

So now you know the rest of the story or at least you will once our conversation is over. So greyhounds we hope that y'all enjoy our Ted Lasso origin story and conversation with the one and only coach Donnie Campbell.

 

Christian  

Coach thanks for joining us today it's good to be able to connect with you us from your old stomping grounds and you from your current stomping grounds in Kansas City.

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

Thanks for having me on. This is going to be a lot of fun I'm excited I'm Miss being back in my stomping grounds. Got a lot of great memories there and and just really appreciate you having me on. Thank you.

 

Christian  

So for folks who may not be familiar with rural America or rural Kansas, can you paint a brief picture of what Lyons Kansas was like when you were growing up there?

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

Well, I lived at 815 West commercial and we had all our buddies, were right there on the block. I mean, we were doing we were outside all the time either playing football basketball. In fact, my dad put a slab of cement in the backyard with a basketball goal and we had floodlights. So we would play until one of the parents would call, we were up to light playing, so they have to shutter down. But we were always outside doing something or we would run up to those tennis courts. And I don't think the tennis courts are there anymore. We'd go up there and play tennis or basketball or go to the old football field and throw the football around. You know, everybody just kind of took care of each other. I mean, you didn't worry about something happening to you, like we kind of do with our own kids. And it was kind of a, I think it was kind of a Tom Sawyer. Life. You know, my wife. And I've always said this, we wish our kids would have had more what we had growing up.

 

Christian  

It sounds like you and your friends were all pretty good athletes. Your track team from 1979 Track and Field was just inducted into the lions Hall of Fame. And I'm going to read off some of your accomplishments from that year, you guys were the for a state champion boys track and field team. You won the state championship with 98 points. And the second place team had 34 points. You had an undefeated season where you want all nine meets, you want every meet except the state meet by over 100 points you guys placed in every event all year except for one. And you had six event championships at the state meet. What was it like to be a part of a team that had that much success all at once, especially from a smaller town?

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

Well, number one is our track coach Garrett Wheaton, who now I think the track is named after we had probably one of the best track coaches in the history of Kansas. And he was a phenomenal person. He worked as hard. But we just had a bunch of guys that were just really good athletes, and I can remember I would run my best time, but I'd always get beat by somebody on our team. I remember the leg mate. We were running the quarter, you know and and I ran my best time and got beat by my best friend growing up in high school, Ken teeter. So Mark Conley high jumped I think played football with me at Kansas State was probably the best athlete in our class, he high jumps 611. And then we had another kid by the name of Mark Fisher, who was a tremendous pole vaulter. And then we had Donnie McInnes, who at one time had the best throw in the country. In high school. It was just one of those phenomenal classes that don't come around very much that just could run and jump and pro and lions, I'm sure they've had a lot of great athletes since we left but I don't think they had that number volume of athletes at one time. And everybody support each other to you know, when somebody was running a race, there'd be teammates out there supporting them. And I know when I was a sophomore in high school, I ran at the state trackmate. And that's when I started getting recruited because a lot of times football coaches would go to the track mates and see, you know, what kind of athletes are out there. And fortunately, I was, you know, tall and, and could run and they look for those kind of things.

 

Christian  

was at that time was the state track meet at Wichita State? That's where it's currently held that yeah, it was awesome. Yeah, that sounds amazing. And one of the assistant coaches at the time, Don Smith, you I've heard you've kind of credit him with being a big influence on you. What was it about that relationship? That was formative for you back in high school?

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

You know, Coach Smith was one of those guys, that was very positive person, and he always spoke greatness into you. And I love math, too. I wasn't a great math student. I had to work at it. But he always seemed to make it where I could understand it. And one of the great lessons I learned when I was a freshman in high school, I had him for freshman algebra. And I could multiply, divide and subtract, but when they started putting variables and stuff

 

Christian  

makes me break out in a cold sweat. Yeah.

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

And I was the same way. And I was really struggling in my first quarter grade I think might have been a gift. It was a D minus. And my mom and dad were absolutely furious with me. My dad was a machinist at Lyons manufacturing, he would drive me in every morning early to school to get help from Coach Smith. Also, I had a principal there Mr. Wheedle who I would go over to his house. And I'm sure they didn't like me because I am out of house and home. But he would work with me. He was a former math teacher as well and work with me on, being able to do math, things and algebra to work out problems in that. And if it wouldn't have been for those two, I probably would have never been a math teacher. I don't know if I would have got through math. And it gave me a great lesson that, you know, there's nothing wrong with struggling it's Something you know, you really need to embrace that because that's when you get better. You know, that's when you improve. And and I still say it to my in my classroom, I, you know, when kids are struggling, I said, you know, you know, this is where the rubber meets the road, you're going to improve here, we're going to get you through this. And fortunately, I had two people and Coach Smith and Mr. wheedle who, you know, kind of set the groundwork for me to eventually be a math teacher and a coach.

 

Brett   

One of the things that there has been a lot of talk about on social media is Ted lassos accent. There are many people who feel that it is to Southern sounding to be from Kansas. And we were just kind of wondering, as someone who grew up in Lyons, and is sort of one of the inspirations for this character, like, how do you grade Ted lassos accent? And what do you find quirky about it?

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

I don't really feel like I'm Southern. Maybe I just talk slow. He said, I know in one of his interviews that, that I was kind of a southern guy. I don't know if I talk that way. But when I when I hear him talk, you know, I think all of us like, that's really not me speaking. But yet, like my kids say, yeah, dad, that's that's you. That's how you talk. So I guess, you know, I get that from being from lions.

 

Brett   

This is a Jason's interpretation of an accent being from you know, the suburbs of Kansas City.

 

Christian  

Yeah. And I think people don't realize that at a time, like Kansas and Kansas City, were so heavy in livestock. So like the American royal people now know, as a barbecue competition. But that used to be a livestock exchange. And so you know, you did have a lot of ranchers and probably some cultural similarities to Texas and the South. And some of those things, you know, as the world changes have been dying off as the generations change, but there was a sense in which rural Kansas was very similar to rural Texas or other parts of the country. So there was a connection there.

 

Brett   

Yeah, I hear a lot of East Texas where I'm from and Ted lassos. Excellent. I've mentioned that before.

 

Christian  

So when you went to Kansas State, that situation, maybe had some similarities to Ted. You were going from a small town to a much bigger place on the football field. While it was a much bigger place, there were certainly bigger and more prestigious schools that you were playing at the time, Oklahoma was just a stinking buzzsaw during those years, what was it like for your world to expand and get bigger, all of the sudden like that?

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

Well, I think one of the things that you learn when you go to college is there's a lot of players that are all better than you. So when you're playing against every day, when you're you're the better athlete in high school, there's probably days you can take days off at the collegiate level you can't because if there is if somebody is taking your place, so I think it developed in May a work ethic because you have to every day, but playing against those teams, I kind of was an all win when I played Oklahoma and Nebraska were the best teams in the big eight at that time was a big eight. So it was kind of my first trip was at Arizona State and at that time, Arizona State was pretty good. And to fly on a plane I'd never flown in a jet before. So for me to get into a jet and fly from Manhattan to Tucson. That was a big step for me. And I'm sure I was you know, white knuckle when I was there but playing football at the Big 8 and that level of the teams we played for me was awesome. It was great. And I that first year going from lions to Kansas to flying on planes and playing in Oklahoma and playing Nebraska it was it was a little bit overwhelming. 

 

Christian  

. In that first year. You also played basketball and names that Kansas State fans and college basketball fans and NBA fans would be familiar with. Coach Hartman, Coach long Krueger on that team was Ed Neely, Tim Jankovic, Rolando Blackman, what was it like to step into that situation? Not really, probably understanding how good and iconic and legendary all of those guys would be?

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

Well, first place coach Hartman was phenomenal. I was scared to death. He was an intimidating guy. Coach Kruger is an awesome coach too. And he used to play with us after practice, and he could kick everybody's tail. Really good basketball player. But playing against Rolando every day you just realize, you know, this guy's a lot better than me. So we as the JV players, which is what I was, we had to do kind of like the scout team. So we would have to run the plays that the other team would run or we'd have to play defense all the time. So I know one thing I couldn't guard Rolando and I couldn't guard any other guys but it was awesome to play you know to play every day against those guys and could The speaking of wonderful coaches and inspirational and influential coaches, you've said that you used to be more of a bobby knight type coach. And so we were wondering what made you start to evolve into the kind of coach that you are now? Well, first, Coach Knight has done a lot for me, we're friends. And he is probably one of the best, if not the best teachers of the game. He's influenced how I teach the game. But the way I go about teaching it now is different. And I'm probably more along the lines of a lot more soft spoken than I was when I first started. You learn with time with wisdom, that there're certain things that, that work with kids and certain things that don't. And I think, one time I had an athletic director telling me one time, you know, would you like to be treated this way? And it made me think, no, you know, so that changed me. But I think, number one, I think when you're young, your volume of how you coach is more along the lines, because you really don't know the game. As you get older, you know the game a lot better. So you're a lot more confident, and therefore the volume of your presentation, because your confidence is a lot better. Does that make sense? Yeah, I've had so many great coaches that have influenced me, and coach Knight is one of them. I teach kids how to play, we don't run plays, and I got that from coach. And then Don Meyer, and on if you ever heard of Don Meyer, he's he's a tremendous basketball coach. And then, of course, coach, Coach Wooden.

 

Brett   

Yeah, that's interesting that you mentioned the change in perspective. Marissa, she does a lot with music education students, and they'll come in with an idea of how they maybe want to teach based on like a teacher that they've had in high school or middle school. And then they'll kind of start to figure out along the way, during their undergrad, like, oh, what worked for that instructor, even though it was valuable to me isn't necessarily going to work in my teaching style. And I think maybe some of that kind of carries over with the coaching as well.

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

You know, many of us right or wrong, parent or coach, how we were parented, right coach, right or wrong. And another person who really influenced me, and I have not mentioned this before, it was my first year coaching at Blue Valley North was a guy by the name of Dale Graham, who was a math teacher as well. And an unbelievable basketball coach. He never raised his voice. He never raised his voice. But kids listened. He saw something in me, I guess, because he kept me on as JV coach, but I learned a ton from him. He was a tremendous teacher was all about the kids. I learned that from him is all about the kids. And real quick, I remember one time he said, this is really great advice. And I've learned it from him. No matter how bad the parents are. Don't take it out on the kid. You know, it's not there. It's not their fault. They got bad parents.

 

Christian  

And parents, I find continue to get noisier at sporting events. So coaches should be reminded of that more and more. Yes, I'm sure one of the things that's changed a lot since you started coaching is now with social media, you can maybe track your students and your players throughout life a little better. Whereas perhaps in the past, you might have lost touch with them for a while. And then they resurface again. What was it like to kind of hear in bits and pieces about the success that Jason Sudeikis was having, as kind of his name grew in prominence, and maybe you weren't able to follow every step of his journey?

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

Well, I didn't know I was even connected to Jason's show until one day I'm walking down the halls, at least on the north, where I teach now. And one of the teachers were always all the teachers were out in the hallways during passing periods. And I was walking by and one of the teachers as well, we've got a star here, we've got a celebrity and I said, Well, you mean they go well, Jason Sudeikis. I said, Yeah, I'd coach Jason. They said, Well, have you watched this show? I said what show they said, so so my wife and I, you know, I then I started I went on, you know, googled stuff and and then went on YouTube. And then I, Janice and my wife and I got the first season on Apple TV and watched it and then things have kind of blown. I mean, it's been it's been it's been very gratifying, very surreal, very humbling, very overwhelming at times. But it's just it's a lot of fun. I mean, I love this show, is that it's always got a little lesson within each show, which I like and I'm just very proud of Jason and the success he's having I think it's really wonderful how you see, you know,

 

Brett   

the idea for this character. And then eventually, years later for this show, you can just tell us so biographical for Jason Sudeikis. And it's really wonderful that like, whenever I became aware of the athletic article that will link in the show notes that were you had kind of been interviewed, and they talked about the connection with Jason being coached by you, and how that influenced, you know, his interpretation of the character in his presentation of Ted lasso. I think it's really an interesting view of coaches who are really willing to invest in their players as people and as young men or young women. And then we don't get to see it, but they elevated that to the college level with the WSU football team, quote, unquote, and then how the show's exploring like how that translates to professional sports and kind of what the benefits and pitfalls are of that. So I'm really thankful that this is so biographical for him, and that there's a real world connection that we all get to kind of look back and see, it's fun,

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

I think it is when somebody hasn't forgotten who has helped him get to where they're at. And I was a small piece of that. They're humble. And it's very, very hard to have that kind of success. And be that humble, and not to forget it. You know, your roots, you know, who got to where you're at?

 

Brett   

Yeah, totally.

 

Christian  

We've had a chance to talk to another one of your former basketball players. Brendan Curran who makes some of the shirts that title so where's the barbecue theme shirts? Do you have any favorite barbecue joints or dishes from the Kansas City area?

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

Yeah, the one that's in front of me. Love barbecue. In fact, you're making me hungry right now it's getting close to lunch. I like Joe's I guess now they call it KC Joe's used to be Oklahoma Joe's. Now it's KC Joe's. But my wife and I probably enjoy Q39. The best and probably Q39. Then KC Joes. And then third is Gates. I like Gates sauce the best. But you know, any barbecue is good. To me. I can eat for breakfast, or also,

 

Christian  

That's been one of my tricks lately, as I've gotten older is to either smoke enough meat or buy enough meat where there is enough for breakfast the next day, because it goes really well with toast and eggs. And it's just a wonderful savory compliment. And I feel like it's made my life significantly better.

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

Well, a bunch of where we've moved where we live. Now a bunch of the guys around us have smokers, and I can barely boil water. So they're going to help me, we're going to get a smoker, and they're going to teach me how to cook. So I'm going to be the pupil, and they're going to be my teacher and because of some of the stuff that they fix us that they brought over ribs. You know, pour. It's just been off the chart. So I want to learn how to do it as well.

 

Brett   

Yeah, this is why it's important to remain a lifelong learner so that you can learn how to smoke me. I think that's what they meant by that. You betcha.

 

Christian  

As people watch Ted, so what do you want them to remember? About lions, Kansas? Well,

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

I again, I think what they see when if they saw them if they walked into the gym or walked into my classroom, number one, I'm a teacher first. And all the coaches and teachers I had were all teachers first it was all about the kids. You know, I I think about my football coach in middle school. Mr. Quinn, john Quinn, a young guy at that time, I'm sure he's probably retired now. But how tough practice was because you know, you start football, you know, it's 100 degrees, at least. And we used to do what was called the Big Three, and you would bear crawl 100 yards in practice, bear crawl 100 yards, then go back backwards. 100 yards, then you would sprint 200 yards down and back. Well, I could not bear crawl. I mean, I was always last. And I can still remember, by the end of the season, I could actually bear crawl 100 yards, and then all my coaches and teachers that I had in high school, but just you know, I owe so much to so many people that coming from lions that you know, I can't repay them. I just thank them. You know, I'm just very, very lucky to grow up in a town in which everybody set me up to succeed later.

 

Christian  

That's awesome. Well, we thank you so much for your time today. We thank you for being a great teacher and a great coach and all those little things that have inspired something that's brought us a lot of joy and Ted lasso. And yeah, good luck with what looks to be probably another challenging school year, but we appreciate you sticking it out and continuing to lock with students during a time where they just really need good teachers in their corner.

 

Coach Donnie Campbell  

I'm excited. This will be your 36 for me and I'm not just So I'm just as excited about your 36 as I was your one I love this time of year and Sandy get a whole brand new group of kids. The locusts is around here. The locust is at night. Yep. I always know when I hear the Locust is in the trees. This school is getting ready to start. I'm excited. Awesome.

 

Christian  

Thanks so much, coach. You bet. Thanks.

 

Brett   

We really appreciate it.

 

Okay, that's our show. We'll be back on the dog track in just one week with our conversation about Episode 10 titled, the hope that kills you. You can check out the show notes for links to learn more about the cool and interesting stuff we mentioned in this episode.

 

Marisa  

And you can keep the conversation going on Twitter and Instagram. Our handle is @TedLassoPod. It's a great way for us to connect with each other and for y'all to share your insights on the show.

 

Brett   

Richmond till we die is brought to you by Gin and Kerosine Productions. It was produced by me, Brett Callan, Marisa Calland and Christian Dashiell.

  

Brett Callan also had the pleasure of editing, mixing and composing the music for this episode. If you enjoyed our conversation, please take a moment to subscribe to Richmond Til We Die on whatever app you are using to listen to this episode.

 

Marisa  

One more quick reminder that if you have access to an Apple device, we'd love it. If you could head over to the Apple podcasts app and give us a quick five star review. It'll help more people find in here the show. I'm Marissa signing off for Christian and Bretty booboo. Thanks for listening. Until next time, cheers y'all

 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai