“He’s painfully aware that Bryant died a couple of weeks after he retired,” L. Budd Thalman, the retired associate athletic director for communications at Penn State and a close friend of Paterno’s, said in a telephone interview. “I’ve heard him say that a couple of times. I think Joe’s definitely aware of that.”
Bryant and Paterno are entwined in history. In 2001, Paterno passed Bryant for the most victories among coaches at major programs. Paterno, standing alone after Bobby Bowden stepped down at Florida State after last season, has 395 wins.