Tech man Taz Anderson dies after living one heck of life

taz-anderson

Taz Anderson, 1938-2016. (Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech)

Taz Anderson was smart and fearless and, best of all if you were a journalist, ready and willing to speak on the record. He didn’t like it when Dave Braine handed Chan Gailey a new contract and proclaimed that Taz’s beloved alma mater would never win big consistently — didn’t like it and said so: “I’m disappointed Georgia Tech would expect mediocrity in anything.”

Taz Anderson died Monday. He was 77. He’d had 43 rounds of surgery and was awaiting a 44th. He’d been on the waiting list for a heart valve when his kidneys began to fail. He’d been in the Cardiac Care Unit for two weeks — “He was fine up until then,” his wife Greg said — and then he was gone. I miss him already. I liked him a lot.

We’d corresponded last month about Mike Bobinski’s exit as Tech athletic director. We discussed about the possibility that the Jackets would hire alum Todd Stansbury away from Oregon State. “I’ve always thought a Tech AD should have gold in his blood,” Taz said. I looked for him at Stansbury’s press conference Thursday. He wasn’t there. I meant to call him that afternoon. I didn’t. Wish I had.

His family thought it was funny that, back in the spring, he did an interview with me from a hospital bed. I did, too. He was in Piedmont, recovering from Surgery No. 43 — a hip replacement. I’d called to ask his thoughts about Calvin Johnson retiring at age 30. Like Taz, Johnson played at Tech. Like Taz, Johnson had been injured while playing football. The damages of an NFL career had become one of Taz’s most ardent causes. (Of his 43 surgeries, he attributed 30 to football.)

I’d dialed his cell number, clueless as to where he was. When he told me, I said, “Is it a good idea for you to be talking?” He said it wasn’t as if he was going anywhere. We gabbed for a half-hour. That day he told me about being blindsided by the Packers’ Willie Wood. Other times he told me about his old coach Bobby Dodd, or about playing golf with Paul Johnson, or about his trip to Newcastle upon Tyne and the Geordies he encountered, or about meeting Sarah Palin.

That was Taz — savvy and successful and good-humored and a teller of stories. He had an unmistakable voice and a huge laugh. I can’t say I numbered among his closest friends, but I like to think I knew him a little. I was pretty sure he’d had one heck of a life.

It was always a bit puzzling to me that we connected. Tech fans are sure I hate their team. (Georgia fans are sure I hate theirs, too, but they didn’t dub me “Bark Madly.”) In the days before email, Taz wrote me a letter saying he appreciated my candor, this at a time when other eminent Institute grads were writing to liken me to a horse’s hindquarters.

I appreciated Taz’s note so much I picked up the phone and told him thanks. For the next 20 years, I was forever picking up a phone to check in. I quoted him in probably a dozen stories, only half involving Tech. He was on the board at the World Congress Center. He was responsible for the faux Olympic flame by the Varsity — “Taz’s Tower” — and laughed off any criticism of it. He sat front-row at Tech basketball games.

In sum, he was a big deal. Everyone knew Taz. Two days after Tech beat Georgia in 2008, we had lunch in Vinings across the street from his office. Every person who entered that restaurant congratulated him.

Whenever I drove through Vinings, I’d be reminded of Taz. His office is smack by the train tracks that are the bane of Vinings drivers’ lives. The posh-looking condominiums at the top of the hill are a Taz development. (He used to tell me he’d have “the Bradley Unit” ready for when my daughters were grown. I’d tell him I could never afford it. He said he’d get me a rate.)

Every time I cover a Tech game, I’m reminded of what Taz told me: “The first thing I look for when I get to the stadium is to see if we’re wearing gold.” (With all the uniform permutations in neo-football, that’s no longer a given.) His memorial service is Thursday morning. I’ll wear a gold tie.

Reader Comments 0

15 comments
Harvey
Harvey

(Indeed rare for me to say, but:)  Thank you, Mr. Bradley, for well presented story for our Well Deserving Mr. GT.  Thanks be to / for Taz and for all he accomplished.

WestPeachtree
WestPeachtree

Taz donated two of his outdoor spectacular units to carry Atlanta's Olympic theme - Come Celebrate our Dream - back in 1995 and1996. This larger than life marketing man had a big, giving heart and he was a big picture, big idea man from the word go. I hope GA Tech, in particular, remembers and celebrates his deep love and many contributions to Tech. He's a Hall of Famer, for sure. God rest his soul.  

bigmac2316
bigmac2316

Taz Anderson coached me in youth football at Chastian Park in 1971 when I was 11 years old. He was the line coach and Bucky Shamburger was the head coach. They were excellent coaches, and if I remember right, we went undefeated that year. We were rained out of one practice, so, we went to a building at the park and watched film of Taz playing football in the pros. I still have many good memories of him and that team 45 years later. RIP Coach. Go Jackets!

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

Good article Mark Bradley.. I have been pretty opinionated about

some of your  less than stellar posts about the Jackets, but I did

appreciated this!

Peachs
Peachs

One of Dodd's boys, who proved you could be a football player, and a success after football,which so many of Dodd's players did. I hope he runs into Kim up there! They certainly will be missed around here.

the doc is back
the doc is back

i must say taz didn like criticism after i seared him on a blog after the night win at miami that essentially was one of chan's best after he had seared chan before the game. he invited me to a personal meeting on peachtree st where he suggested something physical. ha!


mark, i might have sent it to you. it was a real keeper i still have in cloud storage.


braine was also dead right wasnt he? not sure if taz ever gave him cred. heh heh chan continued on being a pretty good and prominant coach as well didnt he in the nfl?


i grew up on the sidelines in the former tech player alumni area on the 46 yd line 6 rows back with the concrete barrier as a back rest where my grandfather sat with his season tickets. best seats in house for a youngster he earned having been a player on the golden tornado of the john heisman. it was a great way to see a game up close. 


through the 12 years my favorite player was taz. just not my favorite alum because he was so powerful and sometimes probably got in the way.


RIP stud, ramble on in heaven.


hellauva engineer!!!!

DoubleSubject
DoubleSubject

Thanks for this wonderful, well-written article , Mark. The Institute will forever be indebted to Taz Anderson. He was the embodiment of what it means to be a Tech Man.

SusanStrib
SusanStrib

Thank you, Mark, for this lovely tribute. As someone like you, who was fortunate and knew Taz "a little bit," it brought me to tears. Taz was a lifelong friend of my daddy's, so I've known him since I was a little girl. He and dad loved to rib each other about Taz's Yellow Jackets and my dad's Dawgs. My dad is torn up by his passing. I posted your article on my Facebook page with this message:

“I rarely have anything nice to say about Georgia Tech, but in the case of Taz Anderson, I'll make an exception. Taz was a football standout at Tech, a successful entrepreneur, a fierce supporter of his university and a devoted father. Always a gentleman, Taz had a roguish twinkle in his eyes, a big heart and a boundless smile. Taz was a loyal, lifelong friend to my daddy, who along with countless others, will deeply miss him. R.I.P, Taz."

Hagg
Hagg

Well done Mark!

YellowJacket7879
YellowJacket7879

Would like to have said I knew the man.  But, I tend to recognize a lot of the traits you've mentioned as those we Tech folks hope to aspire to.


We say to all good fellows who come from far and near, he was a......HEY!


Todd, the baton is yours and we know you share his expectations.

Sonic The HedgeHog
Sonic The HedgeHog

Great article Mark, people like TAZ are fading fast in today's big money college game. Reminds me a lot of Bill Hartman at Georgia.

TOJacket
TOJacket

One of the best reads you ever had "Bark".......Good Form!.......RIP 88.

green_jacket
green_jacket

wonderful man, fantastic ambassador for Tech.  thanks for sharing your experiences.