Commentary

Hiring a coach isn't all that easy

Originally Published: December 13, 2011
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

There are four seasons in college football: the recruiting season, the regular season, the bowl season and the hiring season. You can always tell when it's hiring season because athletic directors become melodramatic.

[+] EnlargeMeyer/Smith
Andrew Weber/US PresswireEverybody was all smiles when Urban Meyer was hired in Columbus.

"There's a right time for certain leaders," said Ohio State AD Gene Smith, as he recently introduced you-know-who as the Buckeyes' new coach. "This is the right time for Urban Meyer to lead this football team."

Or …

"I just wanted to find the right coach for these guys," said Kansas AD Sheahon Zenger to the Kansas City Star on the hiring of Charlie Weis, "and this guy has 'it.'"

Or …

"Caffeine is scared of him," said Illinois AD Mike Thomas, as he announced the arrival of the Illini's newest high-energy head coach, Tim Beckman.

Right times. "It" factor. Nonstop motors. If only it were that easy.

Looking for the perfect coach? Here he is:

The perfect coach is as loyal as Frank Beamer, who could have left his alma mater Virginia Tech for bigger and perhaps better jobs, but never did.

The perfect coach is as good-natured as Oregon State's Mike Riley, who refuses to let the often cynical and harsh nature of his profession keep him from being -- and staying -- a genuinely nice guy.

The perfect coach has the discipline, focus and CEO qualities of Alabama's Nick Saban.

The perfect coach has a sense of place -- like David Shaw, who finished high school near Palo Alto, played for Stanford, earned his degree from Stanford, was an offensive coordinator at Stanford (his dad was a former defensive coordinator on The Farm) and just completed an 11-1 regular season in his first season as Stanford's head coach.

The perfect coach can wear a visor (even during a night game or in a dome) and get away with it.

The perfect coach has the nuclear energy of Clemson's Dabo Swinney.

And the calm, reassuring presence of Kansas State's Bill Snyder.

The perfect coach loves to win, but like Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, doesn't put winning above his values or sense of perspective.

The perfect coach knows his assistants have wives and kids, which is why the Head Ball Coach -- South Carolina's Steve Spurrier -- makes his program as family friendly as possible.

The perfect coach has the ego of Kansas' Weis.

And the lack of ego of Georgia's Mark Richt.

The perfect coach is an innovator, such as Oregon's Chip Kelly, who won't be satisfied until the Ducks cause the play clock to explode.

The perfect coach, such as Baylor's Art Briles, rebuilds patiently.

The perfect coach can do what Chris Petersen has done at Boise State, which is elevate a program from good to great (Petersen is 72-6 overall -- a .923 winning percentage -- and 8-3 vs. Top 25 teams).

The perfect coach understands that a low-maintenance program only becomes that way if someone, such as TCU's Gary Patterson, pays attention to high-maintenance details.

The perfect coach is so incandescently kind that you'd invite him to Christmas dinner, which means you had better have a plate set for Wake Forest's Jim Grobe.

The perfect coach doesn't distance himself from a school's traditions, but instead, like Mack Brown did at Texas, gives them a huge bear hug.

The perfect coach, such as Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, doesn't treat the media like a weekly opponent.

The perfect coach isn't afraid to take his personality out for a walk, which is why LSU's Les Miles wears his feelings on his sleeve, his signature hat, his Tigers windbreaker -- and why his players seem to connect with him.

The perfect coach knows you have to be willing to fail in order to succeed, which explains all those calculated risks Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville has taken with the game on the line.

The perfect coach can turn around a program like Jeff Tedford did at Cal (a .246 winning percentage in the previous five seasons before his arrival, a .627 winning percentage since) and Stoops did at OU (Before: .410 winning percentage; After: .803).

The perfect coach is more interested in quality of life (hello, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald) than quality of a money grab.

The perfect coach can somehow instill a quiet sense of toughness into his players, just like Mark Dantonio has at Michigan State.

And Brady Hoke did at Michigan.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
AP Photo/Dave EinselNot everyone can win on the road or in close games like Mack Brown.

The perfect coach doesn't make excuses, but instead grinds away like Al Golden has during a trying first year at Miami.

The perfect coach has the intensity of Virginia's Mike London.

The perfect coach, such as Duke's David Cutcliffe, isn't allergic to high graduation and APR rates.

The perfect coach takes advantage of his first chance after a long wait, like Charlie Strong has at Louisville.

The perfect coach isn't afraid to go against the grain, which describes what Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson does with the triple-option spread offense.

The perfect coach takes his job seriously, but not himself -- like Boston College's Frank Spaziani.

The perfect coach does what Jerry Kill has done at Minnesota, which is persevere.

The perfect coach answers an honest question the same way Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy answered them this season: honestly, and from the heart.

The perfect coach thinks the impossible is possible, which is why first-year head coach James Franklin is taking Vanderbilt to only its fifth bowl game in school history.

The perfect coach can win on the road like Texas' Brown (of coaches with 35 or more road games, Brown has the best winning percentage and is 43-8).

The perfect coach remembers where he came from, like Iowa State's Paul Rhoads.

The perfect coach can win the close games like Brown (23-4 in games decided by four points or less) or Auburn's Gene Chizik (11-4).

The perfect coach learns from his mistakes, as USC's Lane Kiffin has.

The perfect coach … doesn't exist. And never will.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter