Sarkisian talks about hiring Justin Wilcox

January, 13, 2012
1/13/12
2:06
PM ET
It doesn't matter to Washington coach Steve Sarkisian that new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is a former Oregon Duck, a program that Huskies fans don't particularly like.

Much. At all.

"We go to school where we go to school," Sarkisian said.

What does matter is Wilcox is widely considered one of the best young coordinators in the country.

"I think we hit a home run with Justin," said Sarkisian, speaking to reporters Friday for the first time since he fired Nick Holt and hired Wilcox.

Holt was fired because the Huskies' defense had not gotten better in three seasons. In fact, even with eight returning starters and some touted young talent, the Huskies' defense posted worse numbers in 2011 than in 2010. And then there was the Alamo Bowl disaster against Baylor: 67 points and 777 yards surrendered.

Still, firing Holt wasn't easy for Sarkisian. Those two go way back and were friends as much as co-workers.

"It was extremely difficult," Sarkisian said. "As you go through this, you have to take your personal emotion out of it as best you can."

Sarkisian said he put on his "CEO hat," and saw what was there: A defense that was failing the program.

"It didn't work," Sarkisian said. "It just wasn't right for a variety of reasons."

Sarkisian said he didn't sleep for 48 hours as he went from firing Holt to hiring Wilcox. He also didn't have contract details for Wilcox, who was to receive $700,000 in 2012 from Tennessee. Holt made $650,000 annually, an amount the Huskies will be on the hook for in 2012 because of a two-year contract.

As for a general idea of what changes Wilcox will bring, Sarkisian said the Huskies will adopt more of a 3-4 look with stand-up defensive end. And, not surprisingly, getting better pressure on the quarterback will be a priority. The Huskies had just 24 sacks in the regular season before getting three in the Alamo Bowl.

Sarkisian's staff now has coaches from Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State -- all the Huskies' Northwest rivals. That's amusing, but not terribly important. What is?

Said Sarkisian, "Playing good football and winning games."

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