First impressions, they say, are usually lasting impressions.
Whether they are true representations of what you are getting is another matter entirely, and so it is that while the first impressions of West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen at a “getting-to-know-you” press gathering at the Puskar Center was unexpectedly delightful, only time will be able to tell us if it was real or as deceiving as the suit and tie they dressed him in for his coming-out party.
We had heard much about this man in the past week or so, after having known nothing more about him other than that he was another hot-shot offensive coordinator who also was something of an oddball in the coaching fraternity, where coaches work in short pants, wearing whistles around their necks, where they go to work early and stay late, where they live by a regimen that would make a Marine drill sergeant look disorganized.
Holgorsen, on the other hand, has never really taken to the monk-like existence of the football coach. He admits to liking the city lights, to marching to a drummer that at times only he can hear, and for arriving to work hours after other members of the coaching fraternity have gotten up off the couch in the lobby of the football offices.
So it was that I could not resist checking it all out with the following question:
“Dana, coach (Bill) Stewart has been known to hold some practice sessions at 6:30 in the morning. Any chance you may attend those?”
Holgorsen allowed an impish grin to move across his face, as his head turned toward Stewart, who was sitting off to the side.
“Dana, listen, I’m sorry, old buddy,” Stewart said. “I didn’t tell you about that.”
“That is a bit early,” Holgorsen said, mockingly. “I’ll make it work.”
“He’ll stay with me those nights,” added Stewart, as the room cracked up.
With that, you kind of understood that things were going to be a bit different around the Puskar Center in 2012 when Holgorsen replaces Stewart as head coach. Gone are the regimented days of Don Nehlen. Gone are the driving, pushing, loud days of Rich Rodriguez. Almost gone are the days of Bill Stewart, days that probably fit somewhere between Rodriguez and Holgorsen.
“Playing fast, tempo, having a good rhythm, moving the ball fast and making it very exciting is kind of what we’re about,” he said. “If you do those three things, and you win, then you can have fun. I never want to go to work and not have fun. I never want these kids to go out to practice or out to a game and not have fun,” he said.
“I think having a philosophy of keeping it loose and letting the guys be themselves, while also making sure you’re doing things right like playing smart, hard and fast, lets you have a chance of being successful.”
Holgorsen would admit later that there is a whole lot of eccentricity in his coaching style and his life style.
It has been said, in fact, that Holgorsen never even bothered signing a contract at Oklahoma State, something that made him readily available to pick up the deal here in Morgantown, a deal that as of yet has not been put into contractual form or signed as a contract.
The life style part of it is readily obvious on days when he isn’t decked out in a WVU tie and suit, wearing instead not the coaching shoes that others wear but flip-flops. His eccentricity was obvious in Stillwater, Okla., because he never bothered to get himself a permanent residence, staying instead in a hotel.
He says, considering the six-year contract and position of authority he will inherit as head coach, that he plans to move into a permanent residence … whether permanent is a description of the resident or the residence was not made clear.
“I’ve got to spend a few days in a row here first,” he said. “December is busy and January is just as busy. There will be a lot of to and from (recruiting). I’m not scared of the Residence Inn for a month or two. I am looking forward to getting a place.”
That statement about the hotel may provide him with his first lesson in the Morgantown power structure because the place for WVU coaches to be has been the Waterplace Hotel on the wharf, run by a group of top Mountaineer businessmen and boosters who played host to Bob Huggins for more than a year.
Speaking of Huggins, Wednesday provided Holgorsen his first opportunity to meet with the WVU basketball coach, a man who has been known to like the bright lights of the city himself and who may wind up on more than one occasion discussing coaching philosophies with Holgorsen into the evening.
“I met him earlier today for the first time,” Holgorsen said. “He’s a piece of work. I was pretty jacked to meet him.”
Holgorsen doesn’t deny that he can be perceived as eccentric, operating an arm’s length away from the norm in his profession both outside the locker room and within. His coaching philosophies also are somewhat different than norm.
In explaining his offense, he admitted to often “changing concepts almost every week,” something few coaches do and fewer would admit to doing.
“I don’t know if that’s good or not. If you win, it seems like a good idea. If you’re eccentric and you don’t win, if you change things and don’t win, you look like an idiot,” he said.
To date, he hasn’t looked like an idiot very much as he takes over WVU’s underachieving offense as the man who created the nation’s No. 1 offense and who believes he can improve upon it.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First impressions, they say, are usually lasting impressions.
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