Then to find out that Missouri had beaten Nebraska, I wondered why Gary Pinkel hadn't been hired as well.
There will never be any doubt in my own mind that Coach Lambright shouldn't have been fired in the first place, although I'll admit to blind loyalty. He was given literally an impossible task of keeping the Huskies winning and doing so with 20 less scholarships than any of his opposition.
He succeeded with no support from the athletic department, and no doubt would have won a Rose Bowl with Marques at quarterback. Heck, I could've done that.
Once Lambright was gone, the speculation began that maybe Tormey or Pinkel would be the natural successor. After all, both had close ties to the Washington program, both were using Don James organizational strategies, and both were Huskies for life. Selfishly, I also hoped that either would probably retain me in recruiting because I was determined that we could get back to the elite level of college football and play for another national championship. It was a dream that was quickly dashed when Barbara Hedges went outside the family and chose Rick Neuheisel.
I will never question Rick's right to take the job. After all, he didn't fire us. He just took advantage of the opportunity to make a million dollars a year. So, when he took over and decided not to retain me then I slowly changed my focus. Coaching was taking a toll on me anyway, so why not move in another direction?
I questioned the decision to hire him but quickly realized I didn't have a vote with Barbara, anyway. He was her boy and there was no way after meeting him and watching him operate that you couldn't see what she was seeing.
Unfortunately, she wasn't looking at the football side, but more at the glamorous, public side. He was infectiously glib and outgoing and, of course, was said to be a good recruiter. Tormey and Pinkel were too much like the old, and she wanted something new to the point where the football side was not really important to her. I'm not sure she understood it, anyway, so she went with image.
What I don't understand is why she had to go elsewhere, because both Tormey and Pinkel were handsome and well versed in what it would take to win in the Husky tradition. Both were also excellent recruiters, particularly Tormey, who had brought in guys like Brunell and Kaufman to Washington. Both are very professional in their approach and have built programs with structure and organization. They were Washington coaches.
Still, they were both passed over and as much as I liked Coach Neuheisel as a person, I liked both of them better for this program. I had worked with Chris longer, so naturally knew him better and had shared great games like the Miami win with him. I was confident that they would have been successful if chosen.
This is not intended in any way to implicate that Keith Gilbertson is not the right guy for the job at the time he got it. Because of the timing, there could not have been another choice. Now, he has the task of trying to reshape the ethics and culture of Washington football back to the way it was, which to many of us, is as necessary as winning.
So there I was, shaking hands with Chris and sincerely congratulating him for the biggest win in his coaching career on Saturday. He had done the impossible. He had brought a little middle-tier college team into Husky Stadium and coached his guts out. They were prepared and they were well coached and they believed that they could win. It was truly a wonderful moment for all of them and certainly one of the biggest wins in the history of their school. I was proud, and was delighted to run into his assistants and offer my sincere congrats to them as well. It was a tremendous team effort and it was no fluke. They won the game because they outplayed the Huskies in their own back yard. Chris Tormey made a statement.
Tormey is such a man of class and dignity that he would never let on to his disappointment in not getting the Husky job in the first place. He is where he is because of Washington football, and always will be a good friend of Keith Gilbertson. He wants Gilbs to succeed. He wants him to turn the program around and back to "Husky Football."
For the moment, however, he was simply excited for his Wolf Pack players and coaches. It was pure football at its finest but it was simply the wrong team that won. Unless, of course you're from Nevada, then it was the greatest road win ever.
Think about it! Where would the Huskies be now if either he or Gary had been chosen as the coach back in 1998? From the football standpoint, I think this program would have been better off. But that's just one ex-football coach's opinion.
It's asking a lot, but I hope the fans and administration will give Gilbs the necessary time to prove what he can do as the head coach. Time may just tell you that he is the guy to get Washington through this era.
And back to the way things should be.
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