November 11, 2006

[size=13pt]Report: Bill Walsh battling leukemia[/size]

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Hall of Fame football coach Bill Walsh has leukemia, according to two reports Friday.

The 74-year-old coach, who led the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl victories and revolutionized the sport with his West Coast offense, told the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa and the Sports Xchange Web site that he has been battling the cancer for several years.

Walsh feels much better after a series of transfusions in the past month, and intends to resume a more active schedule.

"I'm positive, but not evangelistic," he said. "I'm pragmatically doing everything my physicians recommend, and I'm working my way through it."

A call to Walsh's home wasn't immediately returned to The Associated Press.

Walsh didn't become an NFL head coach until 47, and he spent just 10 seasons on the 49ers' sideline. But he left an indelible mark on the United States' most popular sport, building San Francisco into the most successful team of the 1980s with his innovative offensive strategies and teaching techniques.

Few men did more to shape the look of football into the 21st century. His cerebral nature and often-brilliant stratagems earned him the nickname "The Genius" well before his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

Walsh went 102-63-1 with the 49ers, winning 10 of his 14 postseason games along with six division titles. He was named the NFL's coach of the year in 1981 and 1984.

Walsh twice served as the 49ers' general manager, and George Seifert led San Francisco to two more Super Bowl titles after Walsh left the sideline. Walsh also coached Stanford during two terms over five seasons, and was the school's interim athletic director until Bob Bowlsby was hired in April.

"I always felt I'll accept my fate as it unfolds," said Walsh, who turns 75 on Nov. 30. "I have no regrets and, when it was life-threatening, I had a lot of considerations about my wife Geri. It appears I've gone through that threshold and it may turn out OK, at least for a while."