Bill McPherson, five-time Super Bowl-winning 49ers assistant, dies at 88


Bill McPherson, who won five Super Bowls as a highly respected longtime assistant coach with the 49ers, died Tuesday. He was 88.

McPherson is one of the few individuals with five Super Bowl rings from the championships the 49ers won following the 1981, ’84, ’88, ’89 and ’94 regular seasons. He spent more than a quarter-century with the organization as a coach and executive.

“He was incredible,” said former defensive lineman Dennis Brown, who built a tight relationship with McPherson as a 49ers player from 1990 to ’96. “He was a good man.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh hired McPherson on his first 49ers staff in 1979. During McPherson’s 20 seasons as a 49ers assistant, he primarily worked with the defensive line and linebackers. He served as defensive coordinator for five seasons, including when the 49ers won the Super Bowl following the 1989 season.

"Coach Mac" remained with the 49ers as part of George Seifert’s staff, and was assistant head coach on the 49ers’ Super Bowl championship team after the 1994 season.

“He was like that strict dad,” Brown said. “He was always in my face. He was always pushing me. I remember my rookie season, he was always following me around up in Rocklin [in training camp]. He’d say, ‘Brown, I drafted you, don’t make me be sorry -- don’t make me be sorry, Brown!’

“He always told me to go out and find something after football because he believed in me. When I came back and got involved with the team, he would say, ‘I’m so proud of you. I always knew there was something else out there for you.’ ”

After his coaching career ended, McPherson took a position as the 49ers' director of pro personnel until his retirement in 2005. He was inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

McPherson grew up in San Jose, graduated from Bellarmine Academy in 1950 and went on to play football at Santa Clara University. He coached at Bellarmine and Santa Clara before taking an assistant job at UCLA in 1975 under Dick Vermeil.

McPherson followed Vermeil to the Philadelphia Eagles for one season before he returned home to join Walsh’s 49ers staff. McPherson remained as a 49ers coach until 1998, serving under Steve Mariucci.

McPherson is survived by his loving wife, Elsie, five children, 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild. His son, Pat, has been an NFL assistant coach for 22 seasons, including the past 10 as tight ends coach for the Seattle Seahawks.

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