After a rocky 2004 campaign, a tumultuous offseason has seen defensive coordinator Reggie Herring and associate head coach Doc Holliday leave the staff and tailback T.A. McLendon bolt for the NFL. Canales, a 19-year coaching veteran, questions assertions that Amato has run off assistants with a meddlesome style.
"Working for Chuck was great, and he's done a great job," said Canales. "I can't speak for other people, but people leave. That happens. That's what college football is, and maybe it helped those people who were in a particular situation financially.
"I think he's great. There are different situations for different people, but I can't see anything negative. People leave because of other reasons, but not because of Chuck. I can't see that.
"In my mind, if the Jets hadn't called, I'd still be in Raleigh."
Canales spent the 2003 season coaching the wide receivers for the New York Jets, helping Santana Moss earn an alternation selection to the Pro Bowl. In his final year at NC State, he worked with then-junior quarterback Philip Rivers and played a role in the Wolfpack going 11-3 and finishing No. 12 in the final AP rankings. With stints at BYU (1985-86), Snow College (1987-94), Pacific (1995) and South Florida (1996-2000) in addition to NC State, the Jets and Arizona, Canales knows that near-constant movement is the nature of the college football beast.
"Guys might leave for financial reasons or to better themselves. That's part of this profession, to get to where they want to be," Canales said. "People want to try and give it a shot [to be a head coach]. My deal was just a chance to go to the NFL, but I wouldn't have gotten there without Chuck. With a lot of guys, it's financial reasons or family reasons … That's just part of the era of college football. When you can demand the money that people are making these days, and it is unheard of … but you have to win and win fast. Some guys see the money and they're going to try and go get it. That was never a reason for myself; I love Chuck and I thought Chuck was great. I think he's doing a great job."
The 43-year-old Canales has had to weigh his own chances to move on, even after a single season at Arizona. He recently turned down opportunities to interview for head-coaching vacancies at his alma mater, Utah State, and also at New Mexico State. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Canales makes roughly $225,000 annually, the highest salary ever paid to an Arizona assistant in any sport.
"It's been a crazy week," he told the Arizona Daily Star on December 9. "But when [Stoops] asked, ‘Are you still with us?', I said, ‘Of course I'm with you. We're just getting this thing rolling.'
"You really get torn. Utah State is my school, and I love the idea of being the head coach there. I think everyone in this business wants to be a head coach someday. But I also made a commitment to be here and help rebuild Arizona football. I believe we can win here and soon.
"It's not always about money. It's about loyalty and seeing a job through."
Canales still feels strongly about his time at NC State under Amato, and said he is confident that Amato will always have a strong staff.
"There's no question. I think there will be young, upcoming coaches that look around and see North Carolina State is a great place to be, and see that Chuck has them on the right track and it's a great chance to help them," said Canales. "Chuck's going to lead them and he's going to do it the right way."
Canales also keeps an eye on his former players, notably quarterback Jay Davis. Canales was friends with Davis' father during his time at South Florida and helped tutor Davis when the youngster sat behind Rivers in his first two years.
"He struggled with some things, but he did some great things, too. If you look at his numbers, against the better teams, he had good statistics," Canales said of Davis's 2004 performance. "I know he'll progress and get better and mature, and he'll have a year away from having to worry about not having Philip there.
"I think he's going to have a great senior season. You never know what will happen, but they should have a great team around him and he could put it all together."
Though he spent just two years in Raleigh, Canales fondly recalls his experiences under Amato and the Wolfpack. He said that he'll take principles that he learned from Amato forward with him as he climbs the coaching ladder.
"In my mind, when he talked, I heard Lou Holtz and Bobby Bowden," said Canales. "He coached under those guys for years, and that's what he's about. Everything that came out of his mouth was them.
"The benefit was getting to hear a lot of the philosophies they taught Chuck, so when I left, I had two big notebooks of stuff that I know I'm going to use as I go. I'm going to use the same philosophies, the same structures, the same foundations that Chuck installed. That's my model right there."