10.14.2009

Satch Sanders: Basketball Player & Business Man

Part 5

In its previous incarnation, Satch's restaurant was a Red Coach Grill, a place of fat steaks and steaming lobsters and a distinctly white clientele. In its heyday, it played to an audience of downtown lawyers and businessmen. In its waning years, it was a stopping-off spot for the boys at police headquarters, just down the street, as they headed for home. The lounge was dark, the decor ecletic, with occasional brass and ubiquitous wood paneling and the inevitable wagon wheels that seemed to come from the old Red Coach itself. Despite the accoutrements, though, its real trademark was the huge fieldstone fireplace that separates the lounge and the dining room.

Sanders talks about the building with reverence. On Mother's Day, year after year, the Red Coach was where he took his mother. If ever he was to run a restaurant, he wanted it to be there. Even before sociologists ponder the problems of getting blacks and whites together, they might think about what makes former athletes so quick to leap into the restaurant business. The list is long and overwhelmed by casualties. Gino Cappelletti's The Point After. Ken Harrelson's 1800 Club. Bobby Orr's Branding Iron. Bill Russell's place, Slade's. They seem to come and go as each new season of draft picks come and go, as each rookie forces another veteran into premature retirement, with money in the bank and searching for something to do with the rest of his life.

Maybe it's that too many games on the road, too much time spent eating out, make restaurants more familiar than home. Maybe it's simply that the noise of the place, the nightly crowd, is an echo of the voices in the grandstand. Perhaps it's a way to extend the days of recognition, to stand at the bar and wait for the old fans to stop by and shake hands. Maybe, too, it's that athletes trade on the hope that the name on the door will bring in the dollars.

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