Coach's Corner

Don't look now but Keith Gilbertson has just gone from being Washington's fired "interim head coach" to an assistant coach with the Super Bowl bound Seattle Seahawks.

How very rewarding for the man who bled for the purple and gold.

Keith Gilbertson is going to the big show. Wouldn't it be great for him to be part of the winning team?

I think most would agree that Gilby got dealt a tough hand at Washington. Sure, it was his "dream job" and sure he had waited all his life for the opportunity. But almost from the start of his second year it was obvious he was on the hot seat. He knew it, his assistants knew it, and worst of all, the kids knew it. Quotes like, "This isn't what I signed up for", began to slip out of players' mouths. Thus a change was necessary.

Keith Gilbertson is from the northwest. He is a native. His father was a high school football coach in Snohomish. He was raised in the shadow of Husky Stadium. He had spent his youth going to games, wanting to be part Husky Football. He served as a graduate assistant under Don James when DJ first came to Mountlake. He later gave up his head coaching position at Idaho, where he had won championships in the Big Sky, to return to the Dawg Father and help coach the Huskies to a National Championship.

During that magical season, Gilby so distinguished himself, that he got offered and accepted another head position, this time at Cal. He had early success and took the Bears to their first bowl victory in decades.

He recruited some great players for the Bears and definitely left the cupboard well stocked when he was unceremoniously fired after only a few years on the job. Gilbs had been back stabbed by one of his own assistants, but kept his dignity and left without much of a thank you.

He spent some time with the Seahawks before rejoining the Huskies as an offensive line coach and later as an offensive coordinator for Rick Neuheisel. He won another Rose Bowl calling plays for the Huskies 10 years after he had done so in the National Championship season. He had returned to his roots and was living back in the northwest and raising his two children, Chrissie and David, with his lovely wife, Barbara.

Gilby had become a Washington institution and thought he had finally found his niche again.

Then things began to unravel for Coach Neuheisel with the whole gambling issue and an "out of control" department began to spin even more out of control as every new crisis began to take on even greater significance. The wheels were coming off Husky athletics. Barbara Hedges panicked just as she had done with Don James, and all of a sudden she was faced with firing her golden boy. Essentially ignoring procedure, she immediately turned on Rick, even though later facts indicated he was being wrongly accused. Still, she refused to defend her man, her school, and her football program. She essentially fired Neuheisel because the heat was too hot in the kitchen.

Problem was, she neglected to replace him for over two months. Not because she didn't have candidates (both Jim Mora Jr. and Charlie Weis showed interest) but she was hung up on appearances and process.

That summer was a total loss for the Husky players. Few stayed in town to work out. Most were dejected and embarrassed by the many scandals plaguing Washington. There was no rudder on the ship. Without a coach in place, the whole program floundered at a time when a coach could have been putting together his system.

The entire Husky athletic program entered into a CYA period.

Gilby was finally anointed as the coach in August. AUGUST!

So the lame duck UW AD gave him much less than she gave Rick to save money, and knew that he was a company man who would accept and save their bacon for the time being.

On the first game, Keith had his wife and kids fly with his lawyer to the Ohio State game on his lawyer's private jet. His boss and her assistants all knew his family was at the game and how they had got there. Yet, when it came time to defend him on ethics charges, they all turned their collective heads. That told him a lot. He learned even more when he got implicated in participating is a $5 March Madness pool. He stepped up and confessed, only to be left hung out to dry, reprimanded, and embarrassed.

Shortly thereafter, the drug scandal so overwhelmed the program that the AD resigns or "retires" and now Gilby is further isolated. The person who had hired him was too busy defending herself to care about the plight of Husky football. It was now entirely Gilby's boat and it was sinking fast.

The program that had been thought to have been stabilized was now in limbo. By mid-season of his second year, Gilby could read the writing on the wall. The team was losing and he was going to be fired. They collectively dropped every game to finish the season 1-10.

He was finished before the season was and everybody knew it. They wrote him a check and said goodbye then tried to get the check back over some stupid reason.

Last winter, Seahawk coach Mike Holmgren recognized his talents and took him on board. Holmgren knew Gilby to be a winner with a great offensive football mind.

He has played a role in Husky history and looks like he is about to add the ultimate feather to his football headdress. I couldn't be happier for one of the all time great Husky assistant coaches.

He openly admits his shortcomings as a head coach but as far as being just a plain old football coach, he is one of the best this state has produced.

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