Starting at the Finish Line

Starting at the Finish Line

Coach Al Buehler’s Timeless Wisdom

Written by: Amy Unell
Written by: Barbara C. Unell

Additional Formats
  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101587034
  • 128 Pages
  • TarcherPerigee
  • Adult


The sign on his office door simply says “Track & Field Coach.” His life says infinitely more.

Coach Al Buehler has touched and enriched the lives of countless athletes, students, and others, including Olympians John Carlos and Carl Lewis, sports icons Mary Decker Slaney, Shane Battier, and Ellison Goodall Bishop (the first woman to run at Duke)—and thousands more who have never owned a pair of track shoes.

Coach Al Buehler believes that finish lines are something to prepare for; and in his world, they should be a place to begin…

Buehler is the consummate professor-athlete-coach. Following a stellar college track career at the University of Maryland, he came to Duke University in 1955 and has since coached thousands of track-and-field and cross-country athletes at the biggest moments in sports from the NCAA Championships to World Indoor Track Championships to the Olympic Games. Coach Buehler is the longest-term teaching professor and coach in the history of Duke as well as one of the most successful, with a long roster of All-Americans, six ACC championship teams, seven Penn Relay champions, and multiple Olympians to his credit.

At a campus still segregated by race and gender, Buehler was an early and ardent advocate for both desegregation and Title IX. Amongst the many accolades and honors that he has received, he is a recipient of the Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award.

At heart, Coach Buehler is a mentor. And Starting at the Finish Line embodies his advice and memorable “Coachables”—along with commentary and insights by a host of notables, from Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Jackie Joyner-Kersee to Carl Lewis and Joan Benoit Samuelson—that have inspired, motivated, and educated athletes and students alike to play with integrity and heart—both on and off the track.


“Al is the best example of a teacher-coach in intercollegiate sports.”—Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, Olympic and Four-Time NCAA Championship Coach
“Coach Buehler’s common sense and uncommon heart inspire us all to do our best in the game of life.”—Grant Hill, Duke NCAA champion and NBA All-Star

“Coach Buehler is someone who left an indelible mark in my life. He’s simply a great person, a great human being.”—Jackie Joyner-Kersee, three-time Olympic gold medalist
"Coach Buehler is an uncelebrated role model who has had a monumental effect on so many lives. He is the kind of coach and person you would be blessed to come in contact with."—Allyson Felix, three-time Olympic medalist 

“There are a lot of great men and there are a lot of great coaches. And Coach Buehler is definitely one of those.”—Carl Lewis, nine-time Olympic gold medalist

“What makes Buehler such a fascinating character isn’t how much he won on the track, but how he lived. And how he didn’t allow the success to change him and instead used it to help change the lives of others. The only pity is, there’s probably no one else like him.”—J. Michael Falgoust, reporter for USA Today

“Coach Buehler is an unsung hero who went above and beyond to help others over the years. He did it with dignity and without seeking publicity or notoriety.”—Dick Vitale, ESPN