Coach's Corner

After a difficult 6-6 season, Coach Gilbertson made wholesale changes and now has assembled his own coaching staff. One of those coaches didn't stay long, three weeks to be exact, but still, the staff he now has are his own hires.

Of course the coaching profession has lots of movement and changes, but the returns of Scott Pelluer, Chris Tormey and now Steve Axman to the Husky program are welcome and positive additions.

Pelluer brings great recruiting prowess and Husky tradition, while Tormey brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, a proven track record, and that same Husky tradition. And Axman knows this offense, an important ingredient when you look and see that the running backs coach is new to offense and that the offensive line coach is brand new to the school. Ax will bring a settling influence to that side of the ball, and knows Gilbertson well.

Obviously, the strange rehire and almost immediate departure of Brent Myers was a little perplexing, but it doesn't deter the positives. Bringing back past Husky coaches was both a sound and positive move by Gilbs.

Staff attrition is almost a regular side show in coaching at both the collegiate and professional levels. The demand to win is so intense that anything short of a championship is now grounds for dismissal. That is why retaining a staff for a lengthy period of time is just about impossible. You lose coaches to either upward mobility or dismissals.

The upward mobility factor is really pronounced when it comes to coaches that are minorities. In recent years, good African American coaches have been in tremendous demand, and terrific (and well deserved) opportunities are opening up at schools across the country. Washington lost Bobby Kennedy to Texas, where Bobby got a substantial raise in pay. Before that, the Huskies lost Tom Williams to Stanford, as the Cardinal made Tom a coordinator. When you add to that the NFL, which is coming along and buying the good young coaches, it makes it very difficult to maintain continuity on a coaching staff.

Coach Gilbertson inherited the entire staff of Rick Neuheisel, but has subsequently replaced the original Neuheisel guys. Along with the return of Ax, Gilbertson himself and Randy Hart are the only holdovers, both of whom were hired by Don James.

That is a major turnover, and the impacts of that kind of turnover cannot be dismissed easily. What you do is hope that these are the guys who will stick around for a while and stick by these kids and this program.

Speaking as a former coach, I can tell you that this is the toughest part of this profession. Asking someone to leave, or having to leave yourself, is very difficult on family and the program. The way the profession is going now, you may as well raise your family in a mobile trailer. That way you can always hook up the house and leave when the next job comes around.

To me, family is still the most important factor to consider when finding a place to work. Coaches who drag their families all over the country are really playing lip service to the importance of the kid's education. Changing school, changing friends, and changing homes can be terribly unsettling to families. I realize that it's a business, and this is a naïve statement, but it's obvious to me that AD's who summarily fire coaches are not thinking about all the people involved. They probably haven't been on the other end of that stick. I can honestly admit that my being fired by Barbara Hedges was devastating to my children and family. Moving them was not an option for me, as they were so connected to this community, so I merely retired from coaching.

Not everyone is so lucky, though, and those coaches that aren't must find new employment, often in other states. And their families may suffer because of it.

Gilbertson has been faced with the almost impossible task of competing with a team and staff that have been in constant fluctuation. Attrition is a part of college football life, but the constant turmoil that has come with Washington's isn't. That is unique. Husky fans can now hope that Gilbertson has established a group of people who really want to be here, through thick and thin. Husky fans can further hope that these coaches and players are committed to rebuilding the once proud and tough Huskies into a national power once again.

That is why Keith is bringing back coaches who have been here before. These are men who have lived here and who want to raise their children here again. Seattle is a great city with a great collegiate football program.

Having players quit your program is the single most devastating thing to the maturity and experience of a team. You never know when a kid is going to mature and become a player at that championship level. With linemen, it can often take 3-4 years to reach that point. So when you recruit kids who leave the program before reaching that potential, it is similar to putting yourself on probation. Experience in crunch time and in the trenches wins football games in a lot of cases. Attrition can be devastating to depth, and to just run kids off merely means you are admitting that you made some poor recruiting choices.

Now, hopefully, the Huskies can find a little continuity to bring about a lot of stability (and throw in a little "institutional control" to boot) – something desperately needed at Montlake these days.

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