Sarkisian announces first hires

SEATTLE - New Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian announced the hirings of three assistant coaches and three staff members today. Jim Michalczik, Demetrice Martin and Johnny Nansen have been named assistant coaches, and Jared Blank, Ivan Lewis and Charr Gahagan have been added to the UW staff

"We want people to be happy and do what they want to do," Sarkisian said Tuesday. "I'm honored that they want to do this with us. I wanted to get a couple of recruiters in here asap, because we're a little behind in the recruiting front.

"To get Johnny Nansen and Demetrice Martin going, especially in Southern California and Hawai'i, was huge." Sarkisian has also been out and about, pushing the Husky name in Southern California. He was seen Saturday at the Butte-Mt. SAC state JC title game and later that night when Tesoro and Long Beach Poly were playing in a state high school title tilt.

"It's been fun," he said. "The overall response has been excellent: People are excited, not just in the northwest but also in Southern California. Coaches are excited; recruits are excited; ex-Huskies, alumni are excited. The response has been good; we just have to keep it going."

Youth seems to be a common thread among the coaching hires, with Michalczik being the elder statesman at the ripe old age of 42. Martin is 35 and Nansen is 34.

Nansen's role hasn't been fleshed out, but he is expected to run the special teams and also coach on defense. He spent the last five years at Idaho coaching linebackers, defensive linemen and special teams.

"This is obviously an opportunity that I couldn't pass up," Nansen said. "It's good for my family, and the chance to work with coach Sarkisian is also great. He's one of the best young coaches around, and also a great person."

Martin, Blank, Lewis and Gahagan all come to UW either directly or indirectly from USC, Sarkisian's last job. Martin was a GA at USC before helping Mt. San Antonio College to a 12-2 record and a trip to the state title game this past Saturday against Butte.

"I'm looking forward to bring back the old tradition that the UW had when I was getting recruited to come here," Martin said. "I grew up in Pasadena and back then, it was always Washington in the Rose Bowl. We have a great chance to bring that back."

Blank will be UW's Director of Player Personnel, with the specific task of helping out the Huskies' recruiting efforts. "Diligent worker, extremely detailed," Sarkisian said of Blank, who had the same job at USC for the past 18 months. "He's going to be a GM in the NFL in time. To get someone of his caliber and his potential is a huge benefit for us." Blank's duties will be tied into recruiting and official visits and also the development of the current players at Washington so that the staff can keep track of who they have and what that means in terms of targeting future recruiting efforts.

Lewis and Gahagan have been hired specifically for their role in reshaping bodies for the football program. Before his stint at USC, he was with the San Diego Chargers and also with the University of San Diego. "We've talked about how we need to get faster as a football team, and that's been a point of emphasis for us," Sarkisian said: Not just for the skill positions, but also for our big guys."

The centerpiece of the early hires is clearly Michalczik, who Sarkisian lured away from California. "I'm a pretty good recruiter, I guess," Sarkisian said with a chuckle. "He's got ties back to Washington; his wife went to school here and played volleyball here. We have some philosophical things in where we align in the run game and the physical nature of how we want to be up front. He realizes he has an opportunity to be part of something special."

According to Sarkisian, Michalczik will take care of the day-to-day doings of the offense as Offensive Coordinator, which means keeping meetings going and having a lot of input in the run game. "I'll call the plays, but I'll rely heavily on Jim, especially in the run game. We'll do it together. I trust what he's done. He knows how to run the football. It wasn't much of an interview, because his resume is on film."

Michalczik was born and raised in Port Angeles, and along with Nansen played his college football at Washington State. In his seven seasons at California, he helped produce seven 1000-yard rushers and one 2000-yard rusher.

"I've always admired coach Sarkisian," Michalczik said. "The combination of coming to work for him and to work at a great institution like the UW is incredible."

"I think intrigue led to excitement, and that's why he's here," added Sarkisian.

Michalczik will also handle the local recruiting in the wake of Tyrone Willingham's staff being let go in their entirety. "He knows the state well; he recruited it for Cal. He's from here. He's done a nice job in the first days since he's been here. He's got great relationships with the coaches and I'm extremely confident that he'll handle it really well."

Sarkisian expects to have more announcements later, but isn't in a rush to fill out the remainder of his staff. "I want to put the best nine guys together to give us the best chance," he said.

The biggest spot still left to fill is that of defensive coordinator, and while he wouldn't name names, Sarkisian said that he's targeted a couple of specific coaches. "I think we've got some guys that are seriously considering the position," he said.

Current Louisville DC Ron English and former New Mexico Head Coach Rocky Long are rumored to have been at the top of Sarkisian's list, but have not publicly commented on their interest in the UW position.

USC defensive assistant Rocky Seto was offered the job, but turned it down Tuesday morning. "I understand," he said. "USC is a tough place to leave. There's a definite comfort level there. If the time wasn't right, I understand."

In the meantime, roughly 60 current UW players have taken advantage of Sarkisian's 'open door' policy to get to know their head coach, and vise-versa. "Everyone is starting off with a clean slate," he said.

Michalczik will be paid a base salary of $350,000, and his contract runs through 6/30/12. Nansen's base salary will be $110,000, and his contract runs through 6/30/11. Martin's salary will be $100,000 to start, and runs through 6/30/11. Top Stories