Penn State is methodically conducting an unusual coaching search for an unusual situation. Patriot-News columnist David Jones recently weighed in on the prolonged search, opining that "everything at Penn State seems to move at the pace of my mom getting dressed to go out."
Eventually, the school will name a permanent head coach. It could be before the Jan. 2 TicketCity Bowl or after. But it will happen, and a lot of folks have an opinion on who the coach should be and what qualities he should have.
I asked three Penn State players about the subject Monday during the team's bowl media day. Two of them, safety Drew Astorino and offensive lineman Chima Okoli, are seniors who won't suit up for the next coach. Sophomore running back Silas Redd told me he's committed to returning to Penn State no matter which coach the school hires.
One common thread among the players' responses is their desire for the next coach to have ties to Penn State. This has been one of the bigger questions surrounding the search since it began. Many media types and outsiders say Penn State must make a clean break from the Joe Paterno tree and hire a complete outsider as the next coach. Others are more open to the next coach having connections to Penn State and Paterno.
Here are the players' responses:
Astorino: "We need a guy who's going to be open and honest, who's going to stand up for his players no matter what, who's going to work his butt off no matter what, and who’s going to represent the university in a good fashion. All those things are very important, and hopefully whoever’s hiring for the job takes all that stuff into consideration. I hope he's a Penn Stater. I hope he knows the Penn State way. I hope he can relate to Penn Staters because we came here for a certain reason, and we're a different breed."
Redd: "I would like someone within the program or someone who knows the program, a former coach or a former player. As far as comfort, guys know what the person is about. You bring in someone new, it's a 50-50 chance. It could be really good or really bad. The guys who we've been hearing have been interviewing, we know they're great guys and we know they'll be able to handle the program."
Okoli: "I'd like to see somebody who knows the ins and outs of this place. It's important because there's a certain culture that's been around. There's a certain way we do things, the way we walk and we talk. I feel like the new coach coming in should know that just to make sure that it can mesh seamlessly and continue to build what coach Paterno built for 46 years."
It's not surprising that the players would rather not have a total outsider take over as coach. Astorino not surprisingly endorsed interim coach Tom Bradley for the permanent job, saying, "The team loves fighting for him. The team's working hard for him. He's an open, honest, brash guy, which I think we all appreciate. He keeps us in the loop, and he’s done an absolutely phenomenal job."
From a p.r. perspective, it makes sense for Penn State to look to the outside. But should all candidates be written off because they played for and/or coached for Penn State? We've seen examples of coaches who come in from the outside and don't understand or grasp the culture of their new programs. While Penn State will be changing its ways in several important areas, does the school's football culture really need a complete overhaul?
What are your thoughts?