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Building a coaching staff next on the agenda

Dec 15, 2009, 7:30 AM EDT

Yesterday, Brian Kelly met with the remaining members of Charlie Weis’ coaching staff. Today, he’ll meet with the coaches from his Cincinnati Bearcats’ staff, hoping to finalize his coaching staff at Notre Dame. Kelly will make plenty of important decisions as the man in charge of Notre Dame football, but not many will be as important as the one that’s next on his agenda.

Building the right coaching staff is critical for Kelly. And no position is more important than that of the defensive coordinator. While the Irish defense was terrible this season, there is some up-and-coming talent on the roster that should have Kelly (and hopefully a talented defensive coordinator) excited. While many Irish fans hope Kelly searches far and wide for Jon Tenuta’s replacement, there are two front-runners for the job.

Cincinnati defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is one logical candidate. Diaco was an All-Big Ten linebacker under Hayden Fry and finished his playing career as one of the all-time leading tacklers in Iowa Hawkeye history. A member of the Parcells coaching tree, Diaco is a young, high-energy guy who would bring back a 3-4 scheme. He’s been well-regarded at every stop along the way, and worked under Kelly at both Cincy and Central Michigan.

Another contender for the job is Grand Valley State head coach Chuck Martin. Martin has coached the DII powerhouse Lakers for six seasons since Kelly left to take the CMU job. At every stop Kelly has made along the way, he’s called Martin and asked him to come and be his defensive coordinator. The fact that Martin was willing to publicly comment on the potential job less than a week before his team played in the national title game goes to show you that he might be interested.

While neither coach would be the splashy, big-name hire that many Irish fans are clamoring for, I think you can make a pretty good argument that the Irish would be better off without it.

When Charlie Weis announced the high-profile hiring of Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta, most Irish fans praised the bold move that seemed very out of character for Notre Dame. The Irish were bringing in a hired gun; a coordinator that had just had his way with the Irish offense, and an experienced coach that would allow Weis to spend more time with the offense while the defense would morph into another exciting edition of a high-pressure, exotic blitzing defense that was a Tenuta trademark.

I think we all know how well that worked…

In the next few days, dozens of people will share their opinion on who Brian Kelly should tag as his next defensive coordinator. You shouldn’t listen to any of them. While many Notre Dame fans will complain when and if Diaco or Martin are hired on staff with the Irish, it’s rare to find a fan (let alone a sportswriter) that can speak intelligently on the merits of assistant coaches.

Kelly has coached with both men and is well aware of what they can do. One of the downfalls of the Weis era was the fact that Charlie waited far too long to make changes on his staff, and the changes he did make didn’t pay off. That’s part of the problem that goes with hiring strangers that you only know by reputation.

While Diaco and Martin aren’t household names, they are very well regarded in the mind of the one man whose opinion truly matters.

  1. StephenOfTroy - Dec 15, 2009 at 10:33 AM

    “In the next few days, dozens of people will share their opinion on who Brian Kelly should tag as his next defensive coordinator. You shouldn’t listen to any of them,” said the man who just shared his opinion on who Brian Kelly should tag as his next defensive coordinator.

  2. Jake - Dec 15, 2009 at 10:51 AM

    Maybe I’m not reading deep enough here but I didn’t get the impression he was recommending either one of them.
    I just took it he was tossing out names that probably would be up for consideration.
    If your going to write an article about who Kelly may be looking at you would be remiss if you didn’t mention them.

  3. StephenOfTroy - Dec 15, 2009 at 11:07 AM

    Jake, Keith Arnold was touting both men. He also wrote about the perils of hiring people you only know by reputation; Kelly has personal experience with both men, as Arnold pointed out.
    It was good enough for a chuckle, but not really fodder for a debate.
    However, “if your [sic] going to write an article about who Kelly may be looking at” you probably shouldn’t tell people to ignore articles about who Kelly may be looking at. Just saying….

  4. Keith Arnold - Dec 15, 2009 at 12:03 PM

    SOT: I made no endorsement of either men. I’ve never watched a single game played by Grand Valley State. I’ve only watched a handful of Diaco’s games, and only vaguely remember him at Iowa.
    I threw those two names out there, because from all that I’m hearing those are the two most likely names we’ll hear.
    My only opinion on assistant coaching is that most people don’t know what they’re talking about.
    Believe it or not, I don’t really write these posts to be fodder for a debate.

  5. StephenOfTroy - Dec 15, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    Keith Arnold, we can agree to disagree about whether you endorsed either man.
    But we can agree that you don’t write these posts to be fodder for a debate. I never claimed that you did.
    I know you write these posts to prop up Charlie Weis in every possible way. Or at least you did until Charlie got canned (and took a classless below-the-belt shot at Pete Carroll on his way out). Now I’m not exactly sure why you write these posts.

  6. NDFAN401 - Dec 15, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    I think that Keith makes a good point about fans not knowing musch about the coaches behind the scenes. The Tenuta hire did hurt Coach Weis and it hurt him badly, I think that Mr.Kelly should hire the people that he honestly knows and believes will exceed expectations in the respective jobs. In most fields when you hire someone by reputation it often does not work out.

  7. StephenOfTroy - Dec 15, 2009 at 12:25 PM

    NDFAN, I agree. Keith Arnold’s point about not hiring merely by reputation is well-taken.
    In college coaching, and especially at a high-profile job like ND, the head coach is seen to represent the program. If they win, he’s great, if they don’t win, he’s the reason they lost and he’s gone. In the pros, a head coach can stay on because the coach only has to please one person – the owner, and the owner generally knows something about football or else he/she/they would not have invested the substantial sums it takes to buy a football team.
    In college, the alumni and fans have to be placated. So the (sometimes clueless about football operations) administration or board of trustees just jettisons the head coach in favor of the biggest marquee name out there (do I hear Art clamoring for Urban Meyer)?
    Given that environment, the head coach should hire assistants whom he knows well and who will be able to check their egos at the door in pursuit of the common goal. I think Tenuta was too wedded to HIS system to adapt his schemes to Charlie Weis’s players. Had Weis brought in someone loyal to HIM, or someone who was more malleable at least, then perhaps defensive changes could have been made. Of course, I think Weis should simply have recognized what the problems were and made the changes himself, but why split hairs at this point when the man is FINALLY gone?
    I think you hit it right on the head when you wrote about hiring someone who will exceed expectations. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Expectations are sky-high, and out of proportion with reality. Kelly should manage expectations a bit, and remind people repeatedly that he’s BUILDING a team and teaching the team his system. He’s doing it without a QB, without an O-line, without a defense, and without a running game left over from the previous coaching staff. Expectations of a national championship game within 3 years are wildly off-base. If he achieves that, then more power to him. But if he doesn’t achieve that, it does not mean he failed. Provided he manages expectations. And stops lying to his players.

  8. mrrandolph - Dec 15, 2009 at 12:36 PM

    What if Kelly keeps Tenuta and the Irish finish top 20 defensively and make a BCS bowl?

  9. michael - Dec 15, 2009 at 7:21 PM

    What if what if. Who cares about what if! ND fans are always talking about what may happen what could’ve happened and what should’ve happened. Tenuta is quite capable of finishing in the top twenty. However if that does happen I hope people don’t start saying that it is because of BK who is a great coach but is not more qualified at D than Tenuta so if this does happen it will have nothing to do with BK and show that Charlie knew what he was doing when he hired Tenuta. Then you can ask yourself what if we had a high scoring pro style offense with JImmy and Golden back with a defense that finished in the top 20!

  10. TLNDMA - Dec 15, 2009 at 8:25 PM

    Keith, SOT doesn’t really comprehend what other people write. He certainly would never apologize for that or admit that he was wrong. You state that you didn’t endorse either, and he says he disagrees. Sounds to me like he’s calling you a liar. He likes to do that. He’s kinda hung up on that lying thing. Gets kinda wacky about it actually. Go figure?

  11. Brad - Dec 16, 2009 at 12:13 PM

    Too bad!! It doesnt matter who he gets, ND will still and always suck!!!

  12. StephenOfTroy - Dec 17, 2009 at 5:43 PM

    TLDNMA, you’re a loser who cannot quit while he’s behind. Show me where I was wrong, or what I didn’t comprehend.
    I never indicated that Keith Arnold wrote anything to be fodder for a debate. I indicated that the specific point I was making was worth a chuckle but not a back-and-forth.
    The simple fact is that Keith Arnold did in fact pull two names out of the air, tell us some positive things about them and their relationship with Kelly, then conclude by telling us to ignore any articles we come across that talk about who’s likely to be on the staff. That’s ironic and silly. You either fail to understand that or you’re being willfully obtuse, again.
    Just like you can’t admit when ND’s coach lies, now you can’t admit when Keith Arnold makes an unintended funny. Sort of like that “semi-expected outrage that will certainly follow.” It’s not my fault that the “fancy” writing is unintentionally silly.
    Ask NDFAN401 if I can admit when I’m wrong or apologize for not understanding anything. But first get out a dictionary and look up “obtuse.”
    And yes, I’m hung up on that “lying” thing. You’re just desperate for a coach who really CAN bring a “decided schematic advantage,” so don’t look down on me for actually having a moral compass. And like I told you, you’re a loser. When Brian Kelly gets run out of South Bend for losing, you can join Keith Arnold in irrationally praising whoever his replacement is. I’ll still be here laughing at you.

  13. StephenOfTroy - Dec 17, 2009 at 5:46 PM

    Oh, and TLoserNDMA, I never indicated Keith Arnold was lying. I just indicated we could agree to disagree. That doesn’t mean I think he’s lying, just that I don’t see something the way he does and don’t see the point of belaboring the distinction between our perspectives.
    You’re the one with the reading comprehension problem. And the situational ethics. Boorrr-iinnng. Run along and play with Team Mom.

  14. TLNDMA - Dec 17, 2009 at 6:09 PM

    Now Stephen, how mature it is of you to call people names. It hints, rather strongly, of desperation on your part. Truth or Lie?

  15. TLNDMA - Dec 17, 2009 at 7:00 PM

    Keith Arnold to Stephen of Troy, “I made no endorsement of either man”.
    Stephen of Troy to Keith Arnold, “We can agree to disagree about whether you endorsed either man”.
    I don’t think it can be any clearer, Stephen is accusing Keith of prevarication.
    Thanks for the word Steve. Did I use it in the sentence correctly? Do you have anymore big words I can learn. I’m finding them to be so much fun. It makes me feel smart too.
    I still don’t want to do the name calling thing though, my mommy says that’s naughty. I find it funny when you do it though, it makes me laugh and stuff.

  16. TLNDMA - Dec 17, 2009 at 8:39 PM

    Steve, you keep writing that I’ve written “Kelly didn’t lie”. As I’ve never said that, and you can’t be so dim, to have somehow inferred from my defense of his lie, that I did. I have some news for you. YOU LIE. Maybe it was only an untruth, a prevarication or a great distortion of the truth. Nah let’s call it what it is, A LIE.

  17. TLNDMA - Dec 17, 2009 at 9:34 PM

    Sorry about that last post, Steve. It must have been tough for you to hear the truth. One more thing, of course that also makes you a hypocrite, as there is never any grey area when it comes to lies. I’ve learned that from you. Thanks for the enlightenment.
    Maybe you can call me another name, to make you feel better. Don’t use the same one, try to be creative. It would really be great if you could use another of those big words you’re so fond of. I like those big words, as they always seem to come in handy when I need them.

  18. TLNDMA - Dec 17, 2009 at 10:06 PM

    Steve, ever see Monty Python’s Holy Grail? Know the scene with the Black Knight at the bridge? Well, try to stay with me here, I’m King Arthur and you’re the Black Knight. You’ve got no arms or legs, only a bitter toungue. I’m going across the bridge now Steve. Scream all you want. You’re defenseless, whether you’re aware of it or not. Just as logic was with me in my arguments. It now dictates that I cross the bridge and wonder why you allowed yourself to be hacked to pieces.

  19. StephenOfTroy - Dec 19, 2009 at 3:16 PM

    TLNDMA: I don’t usually spend much time talking to people who make unfunny Monty Python references. But you left me little choice when you hyperventilated about how you supposedly never told us Kelly didn’t lie.
    You tried several different approaches. You said he “hid the truth.” Other people got on you about it. You called it an “untruth” for which you were rightly mocked by other people than me.
    You shifted gears with this gem in an exchange with NDFAN401, who, unlike me, is generally too polite to call you on your nonsense (but even NDFAN401 lost patience when you could not simply admit that the man LIED):
    TLNDMA to NDFAN401: “You weren’t there? Then, how can you be so sure that he did anything dishonorable? You see we do agree, you weren’t there and you don’t know what happened, what was said, or it’s intent. What we disagree on is, you still feel justified in calling the man a liar. You obviously think this is a serious charge to make, again we agree. How then, when you don’t know all the facts and circumstances, can you make such a charge? Sorry to get into this pissing match with you but, the word liar should be used more judiciously in my opinion….” (TLNDMA’s comment as quoted is #17)
    Game, set, match, TLNDMA. You were trying to tell NDFAN401 that Kelly didn’t lie. None of us bought it. Like you yourself said, there’s no gray (not “grey” on this side of the pond, TLNDMA!) area when it comes to lies.
    So, to review…. I didn’t lie. You did.

  20. StephenOfTroy - Dec 19, 2009 at 3:22 PM

    Oh, and TLNDMA, your reading comprehension remains less than adequate.
    Agreeing to disagree with Keith Arnold about what he meant by writing about two assistant coaches does not necessarily mean I think he lied to me when he told me he didn’t endorse them. We could (and likely do) have different definitions of the word “endorse” and thus disagree about whether his writing about them in a positive light was intended to recommend them for positions on ND’s staff.
    Or I could simply have read his article and failed to understand it.
    Either way, I don’t use the word “liar” lightly, and I don’t think Keith Arnold was lying. I still know (and just proved) that you were lying.
    Oh, and it was hilarious to me that right after NDFAN401 and I proved that you were lying, your next post was to huffily ask me whether it is ever okay to lie. Nice temper tantrum. Hope I didn’t teach you any new words. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

  21. TLNDMA - Dec 19, 2009 at 4:05 PM

    I was wrong, you are that dim. There’s a sentence in that quote of mine that reads “Kelly didn’t lie.”? In this whole thing that’s what you thought my point was. Now I feel like a bully.

  22. StephenOfTroy - Dec 25, 2009 at 12:01 AM

    TLNDMA, you’re not a bully. Bullies pick on people. You’re a gnat. Who in the world was ever intimidated by YOU?
    Your point was clear from the beginning. It wasn’t valid, but it was clear. You excused Kelly’s lie because (you think) it got positive results. Hence your repeated reference to the Gipper. Situational ethics are not admirable.
    Oh, and by the way, yes, you lied. Glad you can (sort of, kind of, as an afterthought) acknowledge it, even as you try to pretend it doesn’t matter that you lied.

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