Jan. 10, 2012
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – New CSU Head Coach Jim McElwain met members of the media in his office Tuesday, less than 24 hours after helping Alabama defeat No. 1 LSU in the Allstate BCS National Championship. Below is a transcript.
On his priorities: “This is going to be, obviously, getting out on the road in the next two weeks and trying to make up for three months of recruiting in two weeks. We’ll be in a lot of homes and a lot of schools, and I think the one thing is I’ll be as open and honest with you guys in everything we’re doing. I don’t have any secrets. The one thing right now, I can’t really speak on our roster. I don’t know, so that wouldn’t be fair to anybody. As far as the staff, it’s going to come. The one thing, I got to talking to a lot of head coaches, including (Alabama head coach Nick) Saban. They said the one thing that guys getting new jobs make the mistake of is hiring guys too fast, not making the pieces fit together. As those guys are hired, you guys are going to know. It isn’t a secret. I just don’t want to get it out there until it’s official from our end, so we’re not hurting them on their end. I’m not hiding anything with it, I just want to make sure it’s right. The other thing is, I’m trying to involve the coordinators as much as possible because I’ve been in situations where, ‘Hey, you’re the coordinator, here’s your staff.’ I want to make sure those guys are heavily involved in what we’re doing. I think having the team together, and I use the team as everyone in the building, making sure we’re all pulling in the same direction is really important. As those things occur, we’ll be right on top of it.”
On his time with Alabama: “I can’t tell you, from a personal standpoint, how fortunate I am. We just came off of a four-year run where we won 48 games, two national titles, three BCS games. I get on a plane to come to Colorado State, which is a dream for me. It was awful hard last night, leaving those players, and the support staff and the coaches. It was very hard.”
On if he felt closure there: “No, not at all. I will say the hardest thing was hugging my family and two of my daughters, obviously, who are in college there. I think reality has hit as a father, and that was awfully hard.”
On if his family will join him in Colorado: “They’re (his two daughters) far enough along in their degrees, that it’s totally their decision. You know at some point as a parent you’re going to have to let go. I’m not ready to let go. He’s (his son) going to come up with my wife here right after recruiting and visit some of the local schools, bring his transcripts and see what we can maybe, hopefully get transferred at the midterm. I think it’s really important that he gets involved here, in the community and in the schools, so he has some buddies over the summer. I think that’s really important.”
On when he arrived to Fort Collins: “(CSU athletics director) Jack (Graham) was at the game with a couple great guys and they were down on the field and right after we got out of the locker room we loaded up and got on the plane and get here about 3 o’clock in the morning and hit the ground morning bright and early today.”
On if his assistants have roles yet: “Yeah, go out and get players. That’s their role.
“Dave Baldwin is the offensive coordinator. Coach (Tim) Duffie’s going to be our recruiting coordinator. Right now, whether he works on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, that’s kind of part of the puzzle and something I want to discuss with him before we move forward. Once we get all those positions established, you guys will be the first to know. All of the positions aren’t established yet. (Baldwin) was a neighbor of mine for four years, and he does a heck of a job mowing lawns. He’s got an unbelievable flower garden; he really knows how to do it.”
On recruiting plan: “4 o’clock we’re planning our strategy. We had all those guys that are here on the road when it was live the last three days last week. We have some recruits coming on campus this weekend. We’ll plan on what homes I need to get into all over the country within the next two weeks. Obviously, Colorado is part of it and so are some other areas that we have guys that we have targeted.”
On how many more signees he is expecting: “I’m sure there is going to be some attrition. I’d love to give you the exact number but I don’t know right now. There is some medical things that are out there; that is why I just can’t give you an exact number on what it’s going to be. It won’t be one of those deals when I’m into over-signing and I’m having to cut guys loose. That’s not going to happen. And one thing I want to make sure we are aware of as well is, look, the guys here are the most important thing right now. This team and them getting to know our personality and our expectations. Sometimes in transition certain factions get lost in the transition. It is their team and I want to make sure they take ownership in it as well.”
On next team meeting: “I’ll have our first team meeting Friday of next week. We’ll have an orientation meeting where our academics, compliance, strength coach, and those people get them set for the first week of classes. Make sure they know the direction we are heading. Right after signing I’ll set up a meeting schedule and meet with every player individually.”
On how he feels about his recruiting with a shorter time: “Recruiting is relationships. We are going to try and create a relationship in two weeks, when other guys have had a relationship with these guys for a year-and-a-half, two years. That is not easy, so we have our work cut out for us. One thing we do have going for us here is the vision of the administration and athletic department, and the commitment of the direction we are going. The quality of staff you see get hired, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and with that guys want to be involved in something that has a chance to be very, very good. Will we knock down a few doors, yeah. Is it going to be hard? Yeah. But those are the cards we’re dealt so play them.”
On how ready he is to run a program: “I’ve been involved with some great head coaches. I’ve also researched and spoken with a lot of coaches that I know who have become head coaches and really tried to find out what were the goods and what were the bads, and try to blend that all together. There isn’t a manual written on this. I don’t have all the answers. I’m good at taking input and I’m good at piecing together what fits so that is what we’re doing right now.”
On offseason conditioning programs: “The conditioning model and what we do in the offseason and our fourth-quarter program, those type of things working into spring ball are pretty well set off a model I am used to and have done. I can’t speak to what they did here but my guess is it is probably different and it’ll probably be an eye-opener for them. But that’s part of installing toughness in your team.”
On how much of Nick Saban’s model will he bring with him: “A lot. I learned a tremendous amount from Coach Saban and he has been so helpful in this process and how he helped me in the transition. Somebody did that for him before; Coach (Bill) Belichick did that for him when he left Cleveland and went to Michigan State. I hope someday to help somebody in that same way. I can’t tell you how gracious he has been and how helpful he has been. I think in the back of his mind he is kind of proud, too.”
On setting up a CSU office within Alabama football offices: “We had a CSU satellite office right there in Tuscaloosa, which was manned 24 hours a day by our secretaries; Candice (Rosenkranz) in particular did a great job. She handled all three and four of my phones. She handled this thing they call e-mail which is a computer, which guys don’t contact me on that because I don’t know the button or how it works. There is a notebook that was a daily thing we went over when I left the office at night, whether it was 10:30, 11 or midnight, whenever it was. Then made calls to the West Coast because I was able to save on the time zone and then make the East Coast calls on the way to the office in the morning.
“One thing that I did get from a lot of coaches is, prioritize and make sure the use of your time doesn’t get pulled to the point that you lose focus on what the most important thing is at that time, and right now it is recruiting.”
On recruiting difficulties without knowing who might leave and not knowing what he might need: “I kind of have an idea. I was able to sit down and watch some tape. I’m not going into this thing blind. I have some very confident people on staff that were able to evaluate while I was trying to win a national championship.”
On whether Dave Baldwin will call plays: “As long as he doesn’t screw it up.
“Surround yourself with good people, give them direction, have a vision and have a passion. We’ll put a plan in together; I’ll be heavily involved in it. I’ll be heavily involved in special teams, and I’ll be heavily involved in defense so I know exactly what we’re doing and what we need to do to win the game. That is something I’ve learned along the way; don’t get caught on one side of the ball and make sure you don’t worry about the other side. As a head coach I want to be involved with everybody on our team. I think the key to winning ball games is not just big numbers on offense or great defense but how they blend together all three phases. At the end of the day you want to have more points than them and win. Sometimes you have to take your ego out of it, play ball control, play field position, let’s keep the ball away from their offense. The other way is you may need to take more risks on defense. You need to work all that kind of stuff out as a whole staff to figure out how to win games.”
On how it feels to go from winning the championship to starting from scratch: “I’m still pinching myself. You can’t believe how excited I am for the opportunity. It is what I’ve been working toward for a long time and I’m very proud of what we accomplished at Alabama in the time I was there. There are great players there and they are going to continue to win. Coach (Saban) will go hire himself the best there is and they’ll move forward. But I’m very proud of what we did and what we accomplished. And now as you move into the new chair, the new role, I’m really excited to get this thing going. I’m hoping we can get out of a huddle when we go out there in spring ball. If I close the first five minutes of practice, don’t take it personal; I just want to make sure we get through stretching.”
On when winning a national championship and being named head coach will hit him: “It hasn’t hit me. It’ll probably hit me sometime this summer when I’m sitting up there at Flathead Lake, staring at the stars, down by the lake with the campfire going. You see more stars and that is where I do my best thinking. I think that is when this year will probably hit me. Until then I’ll be so busy moving forward I’m not sure I’ll think about it.”
On the importance of his family: “Karen has been so supportive in anything we’ve done. We’ve picked up and moved across country I think three different times, back and forth. She is always there to be supportive. She was a department head at the university back at Eastern Washington. She gave up her career to follow mine. At the time I thought we made a mistake; she was a lot better than I was. She is a big part in what we do and this will be a family atmosphere. All the coaches that do have wives, children, will be heavily involved in what we do; that is a big part of it.”
On the support of his two daughters: “I think they are really excited for their dad and they have had an opportunity growing up, meeting a lot of players and know how much I cared for them and knew how much that meant to me. I think they can sense my excitement and it means a lot to me.”
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