I think following Steve Prefontaine in my Learning From the Greats series has to be Bill Bowerman.
Bowerman ‘recruited’ Pre to Oregon and was his official coach…though I believe by the time Pre was an upperclassman the majority of the workouts Pre ran were from Bill Dellinger (up next in the series)…but it was Bowerman that coached Dellinger to an Olympic Bronze medal at the Rome Olympics and Bowerman who influenced a generation of runners and coaches.
My favorite story on Bowerman (well, let’s be honest, I have a lot of favorite Bowerman stories) was when he was mocked and ridiculed by several coaches at the 1954 NCAA Indoor Championships because he believed in a hard/easy pattern of training…at this time in the running and athletics world coaches believed that the only way to train was by the hard / hard pattern. (Think of the slogan…no pain, no gain…)
Well, after being mocked and ridiculed by these coaches, he sent out his protege, Dellinger, to win the NCAA Indoor Mile title. Needless to say, he shut those old-school coaches up pretty quickly.
There’s another story on Bowerman, by Kenny Moore, where Moore (4th place in the marathon at the 1972 Munich Olympics) was running too hard and running too much. Bowerman calmly, yet forcefully, in only a way that Bowerman could get away with, explained that if Moore did not start resting, recovering, and doing only as Bill asked, that he would no longer be on the team.
That’s what I learned from Bowerman.