Neuheisel Talks Coaching Changes

UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel talked on Thursday about the latest addition and subtraction to the football staff...

Q: How's your tan?

RN: ‘'I wasn't there long enough to get much of a tan. It was a demand performance. My wife had set up a little birthday party for me and I needed to go. But I'm on the senior tour now, so that's a good thing …

‘'I'm excited to announce the addition of Jim Mastro to our staff. Jim is going to coach our tight ends and out F's and be a real asset to our run game,  bringing all of the expertise and experience that he has garnered over the years and brought to the Wolf Pack program. I was very thankful hat Chris Auilt was amenable to me getting a chance to talk to Jim and just excited that Jim is looking forward to this challenge. He's a great guy, he's got a great family … his wife if the ultimate coach's wife, whatever Jim wants and needs and all that kind of stuff, so we're excited to have Jim and his family join ours. I just know that with Mike Johnson working in that throw game and Jim kind of helping in that run department we're going to be able to put together an offense that we're all going to get excited about.''

Q: Where are you with the defensive coordinator position?

RN: ‘'You know, I am still working through it. I've got a list of candidates, which I've talked to all of them and I've let most of them know, the rest I'll keep working to get to them today, that I'm going to make a decision by this weekend. I'm trying hard to be done. But I've got to be thorough because I want to be right and, you know, I understand the scrutiny, I understand the perception, all that kind of stuff, but at the end of the day none of that matters. What matters is that we play well next year and to play well next year I've got to make sure I make the best possible decision.''

Q: What happened with Todd Howard?

RN: ‘'You know, I just felt like we needed to make a change and I also wanted whoever is the new coordinator to have an opportunity to, you know, help with another staff member.''

Q: Rick, by bringing in Jim, does that indicate you guys are going to stick with at least a large chunk of the Pistol offense?

RN: ‘'Uh, you know, we're going to use a lot of the stuff within the Pistol that has been successful, but it's going to be a portion of our offense, not the be all end all. I think, and Jim and I have talked about that, you know, we need to use what he knows about formations so we can get to what we need and then put that all together with the throw game. And, you know, his ability to use all his experiences and all his knowledge of how to get that done via formation-ing will be hugely beneficial. Jim, are you on the phone? Guys, Jim's here and available if you have any questions for him as well.''

Q: Jim, have you had a chance to look at any of UCLA's film yet and if so, what kind of jumps out at you that works and maybe that needs some work?

JM: ‘'Well, yes I have looked at all their tape. And, two, they're on the right page. The Pistol is a process and the thing that was appealing to be about this is they already have the foundation, you just have to go fine-tune it. The nuances of it, you know, we've made, I've made all of the mistakes you can make in this offense, so I'm talking from experience. We've made them all and corrected them all and I think it's just a plus to have, like coach said, just another eye, more knowledge on how it's supposed to work. But I'm looking forward to the challenge – I like their team, I like their talent, I like their offense and I like that they rushed the ball for, what, 170 yards a game. That's good. That's really good. And I look forward to just trying to make that better.''

Q: Jim, what was appealing about this jump. I mean, you've been at Nevada for some time …

JM: ‘'Just the challenge. It's time. I think there's really nothing more that was left for me to do here. I mean, Coach Ault, when I walked into his office, I was nervous, it was a nervous time. Rick had called and asked for permission to talk and so I went down last Thursday I believe it was and we talked and when I went in to tell coach that I was going to take the job, I've been here for 11 years with him, I'm like his right hand man, he stood up and he says, ‘You take this job. You have to go. You can't pass this opportunity up.' It's a privilege, you know. He kind of taught me everything he knows, now go do it. I have my own ideas and me and Rick have talked about that, my own philosophies. The principles are going to stay the same. You know, running the football is about an attitude, and we're going to … if they don't have an attitude we're going to make them have one, if they do we're going to make it stronger. That's what running the football is all about. It's not about Xs and Os and schemes, it's just about an attitude and wanting to do it. They have to want to do it. If they don't want to do it we have to make them do it. That's just part of the process.''

Q: How important was getting that third year on this to making the move?

JM: ‘'Rick, I get a third year?''

RN: ‘'It's a two-year deal … Now, it's the rest of this year and then two seasons beyond that.''

Q: What's your relationship with Mike Johnson? Do you know him, and have you ever worked with him before?

JM: ‘'No, I haven't. I've heard a lot of great things. I did my homework, believe me, before I made this move I did my homework and heard nothing but outstanding things about him. I'm looking forward to it. Football is all about knowledge, gaining knowledge. If you think you know it all, you're done, so I'm looking forward to the knowledge, I'm looking forward to working with Rick Neuheisel in the passing game. I mean, that's huge for me, to be able to learn and see what he does throwing the football. It's all going to come together as one, but bottom line is you've got to check the egos at the door and you've got to find a way to win and we're going to find a way to win.''

Q: Coach, this is Jon Gold, kind of going back to Coach Howard, can you sort of take us through the process a little more, what specifically made you look in a different direction?

RN: ‘'You're asking me about what made me look in a different direction for Coach Howard? You know, I just think that as you get on and you're trying to make changes in defensively philosophy and things of that nature that there's just a time to make subtle changes. I have great respect for Todd. I think he's a great guy to be around. This is not as much a dissatisfaction, it's just kind of a breath of fresh air. I just feel like this is the time to do that.''

Q: There are reports that he's already been hired up at Washington State so clearly he's had some time to absorb this. When did you make the decision and when did you kind of decide to finalize it, I guess?

RN: ‘'Todd and I talked about this in December. I just wanted him to know as I was looking for a new coordinator that maybe he needed to be ready to make the next move and, you know, one thing I admire about Todd, there was never any bitterness, he was extremely professional and worked diligently throughout recruiting and I think is going to be a great addition to the Cougars' staff.''

Q: Rick, do you have more than two guys on this DC list?

RN: ‘'Uh, yeah.''

Q: Is Jim Fitzgerald one of them?
‘'Uh, I'm not going to divulge any names, but the answer to the how many is yes.''

Q: And you've interviewed everybody that you're going to consider?

RN: ‘'I wouldn't rule out one more interview.''

Q: Is this defensive coordinator search taking longer than you would have expected?

RN: ‘'Oh, yeah. No question. I've had the guy picked three times now. But circumstances have led the search to recontinue and so it's a complicated deal, but once again, it doesn't matter how long it takes it matters what the results are.''

Q: When you said you had the guy picked three times, were you being sarcastic? And was (Rocky) Seto, what's you version of what happened with Seto?

RN: ‘'I was clear with my version of what happened with Rocky. I asked him for his commitment. If I decided to go forward I wanted to make sure he was ready to go forward as well and before it reached the Regents approval, which was necessary, other factors came to light that made it probably not the right time.''

Q: What were some of those factors?

RN: ‘'I don't want to divulge. I just … you have to be wary of everything, and it just became not the right time and Rocky understood and was  great and obviously I think he's going to be a terrific coach.''

Q: Were those circumstances other people becoming available or stuff that transpired?

RN: ‘'Any and all. I don't want … for obvious reasons I can't divulge all that.''

Q: Is Randy Shannon still in the picture?

RN: ‘'Again, I'm not going to name any names, but I talked to Randy and I was impressed with Randy.''

Q: Rick, you talked about a new defensive coordinator coming in and you wanted him to have a chance to add to the staff, does this mean that Tim Hundley is secure in his spot, and Clark Lea I guess also?

RN: ‘'Uh, you know, those conversations will be had at the appropriate time, but my sense is yes.''

Q: Yes, they're safe?

RN: ‘'Yes, they're safe.''

Q: What made Todd different?

RN: ‘'You know, I just felt like where we were at the time, it was time to consider a change. I didn't make the ultimate decision at the time, but it was time to consider a change and I wanted him to be wary and have opportunity to take care of himself.''

Q: When you say time to make a change, in what way? Was it a philosophical thing, a recruiting thing?

RN: ‘'A combination of things. You know, it was just something I felt was the appropriate conversation to have.''

Q: Are you done on the offensive side of the ball?

RN: ‘'Uh, for now.''

Q: Do you anticipate the staff you have now being the staff you go on the field at Houston with?

RN: ‘'Offensively? Yes.''

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