Explaining what happens when a coordinator is dismissed during the season
Posted by: Pete Roussel on Sunday September 08, 2013
In light of Mack Brown’s sudden decision to dismiss Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator, I vividly recall as part of the University of Memphis staff in 2006, the morning head coach Tommy West dismissed veteran defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn.
The immediate hours and following days are quite awkward inside the football facility.
Like West, Brown’s decision followed a poor defensive showing on the road against a team that ran the ball effectively all night long. In Diaz’ case, the Longhorns allowed 550 yards rushing on Saturday night in their 40-21 loss at BYU.
As a member of the Memphis staff, though there was absolutely no personality clash between West and Dunn, West’s decision didn’t completely catch our staff off-guard. Dunn’s defense struggled mightily to stop the traditional power play during the 2005 season and that didn’t change in the first three games (Ole Miss, Chattanooga, and East Carolina) in 2006. When West unusually called a 7:30 a.m. staff meeting on Monday morning and Dunn wasn’t in his seat a couple of minutes early, I think most of our staff realized what must have taken shape.
Today, I suspect the Texas assistants were not completely shocked, either. Assistant coaches can sense when a head coach doesn’t believe the problems can get fixed.
Having witnessed the accumulation that led up to Dunn’s dismissal and recalling Tommy Tuberville’s sudden dismissal of Tony Franklin in 2008, not only was I not surprised by Mack Brown’s decision, but I even told a colleague late Saturday night that I suspected it would happen today.
The Longhorns were flat out embarrassed in Provo. It was one of those nightmarish nights that can happen to any defensive coordinator that coaches long enough.
Here's what I wrote early this morning. (Watch this play)
The truth is, however, Texas football has far bigger issues than Manny Diaz. I mean, does anyone truly believe that Texas is capable of playing consistently stout defense in the current culture of the program?
There is something called toughness and accountability. Both matter a lot, but few coaches in the profession believe the Longhorns have enough of either in their program.
What’s important to understand is that an early-season dismissal of a coordinator does not necessarily reflect the inability to coordinate effectively at the highest level of college football. On multiple occasions, Joe Lee Dunn coached a No. 1 nationally ranked defense, but the pieces didn’t come together consistently at the University of Memphis.
Diaz experienced great success at MTSU and Mississippi State before succeeding Will Muschamp as the defensive coordinator at Texas. It’s ironic now that Diaz’ replacement at Texas, Greg Robinson, served as Michigan’s defensive coordinator four years ago when Mississippi State, with Manny Diaz as the defensive coordinator, trounced the Wolverines 52-14 in the Gator Bowl.
Neither coach failed because he can’t coach. The failure was from a program standpoint. That’s usually how coaches get dismissed.
What in-season dismissals leave in the immediate are a couple of hours of ‘Wow, did this really just happen’ in the minds of the other assistant coaches followed by some wide eyes from the players.
The most awkward part of an in-season dismissal of an assistant is the reaction of the administrative assistants, recruiting assistants, student managers, student videographers, and trainers. Those people are usually stunned by the reality of the situation and often don’t know how to react.
This week, for those Longhorn players that were recruited by Diaz, it will be a bit unsettling for a couple of days. The same goes for any of the players that developed a close bond with Diaz.
For the players, the ‘firsts’ will also be especially awkward -- the first position meeting without Diaz, the first defensive team meeting without Diaz, the first practice, the first dress-rehearsal Thursday, the first Friday night meeting, the first pre-game warm-ups.
So what happens?
I suspect the UT assistant coaches will let those players know that Diaz has a bright future and will be fine. I suspect at least one coach will offer the old saying in the coaching profession to his position group: “There are two types of coaches --those who have been fired and those who will be fired.” It’s part of the profession and sometimes is just doesn’t come together.
Mack Brown will remind the players to focus on what they can control – their effort and attitude.
Regardless, it’s definitely not the situation Mack Brown desired heading into a four-week stretch against Ole Miss, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Oklahoma.