People love to talk about the purple face, the conniption that caused Brian Kelly’s face to turn a shade normally associated with a rutabaga.
It happened in the 2011 season-opener against South Florida when the Irish head coach went bonkers amidst five turnovers, a fuse-lighting pass route by TJ Jones, and the eventual 23-20 home loss.
It’s been a different Brian Kelly since then. That’s not to say the Irish head coach hasn’t blown a gasket or 10 along the way. He has. But he’s been much more inclined to stand along the sideline, arms folded across his belly, patiently waiting out the results.
That’s all about to change, or at least resemble a time when Kelly’s emotions were on display more frequently.
“I think I’ve been a little too – what’s the word I’m looking for – maybe not as demonstrative,” said Kelly Tuesday at his weekly press conference from Isban Auditorium in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.
“I’ve got to be more fiery on the sidelines, quite frankly. So I’m going to try to turn it up a little bit because that’s who I am, you know?”
You are who you are. You may squelch some of that emotion, tuck it away while the mind is racing and the stomach is churning. But it’s still there. It is part of a coach’s DNA. Some are calm by nature; Kelly is not.
Did someone say fiery Irish temperament? It’s a stereotype, but Kelly fits the description.
It’s all part of conceiving a plan to bring out the passion in his players who were accused of lacking a sense of urgency after the Michigan State game and then again following the loss to Duke when Kelly really went off.
“There’s no passion; it looks like it’s hard to play,” said Kelly as his voice raised and his emotions rampaged after the Duke loss. “Like we’re pulling teeth…You’re playing football for Notre Dame! It looks like it’s work!
“Last I checked they were getting a scholarship to play this game. There’s no fun, there’s no enjoyment, there’s no energy. We’ve got to look for the guys that want to have fun and play this game with passion and energy.”
Kelly picked up on the topic this week while admitting that he has to help provide that passion and energy on game day, or at least more than he has.
“I have to be able to find out the reasons that we’re not playing with passion,” Kelly said. “I’ve made some changes, obviously, some significant changes within my staff that got to maybe some of the reasons we weren’t.
“Passion is only one element. Attitude, passion, accountability, responsibility…all of those things are within this team that I have to help grow, and that falls on my shoulders.”
A return of South Florida purple is unlikely, but the fire will be back…and maybe even a good story or two.
“I’ve been hands-off a little bit,” Kelly said. “I just need to be who I am, and not be, you know, as hands-off. I’ve got to be more involved.
“And if (I’m) too fiery, you guys will have even better stories over the next couple of weeks.”