There’s a sports theory that an athletic director, always at the ready for a coach’s departure, keeps a list of replacement targets in his desk drawer. If not there, then certainly in the back of his mind.
I can’t say whether Kirby Hocutt has that list on paper, but clearly he knew where he was headed from shortly after he hung up from his last conversation with Tommy Tuberville. One moment, the Texas Tech athletic director was spending a carefree Saturday morning watching a kids’ soccer game.
Next thing he knew, Hocutt found himself suddenly in need of a new coach.
It took him right at 100 hours to land Kliff Kingsbury.
Which strikes me as a quick and decisive action on Hocutt’s part.
“I don’t think of him as quick and decisive,” Texas Tech Board of Regents chairman Jerry Turner, the former Red Raiders player, said Wednesday. “I think of him as very deliberate. I think he has gut reactions. I think he really likes to revisit those gut reactions. I don’t think this was a decision that was not well considered.”
Certainly, if Hocutt needed a nudge, Tech fans provided it. Until now, the Red Raiders have never had a head football coach who actually graduated from Tech. Kliff’s the first. That gave him some pull.
By all appearances, Kingsbury was the people’s choice compared to Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, the other frontrunner. Those clamoring for a return to Mike Leach-style football drowned out those fearful of Tech being on-the-job training for a 33-year-old first-time head coach.
There’s plenty of time to see who’s right.
Fan preferences notwithstanding, Hocutt’s actions seemed to originate in the head as opposed to the heart.
His worries about Kingsbury, if any, are well hidden.
“Kliff has had a tremendous career, he’s had immediate success as a college football coach and his ties to Texas Tech were important to us,” Hocutt said. “He’s been on the radar screen for the past number of years.”
See? Hocutt has that list, somewhere, and had Kingsbury’s name in a prominent spot.
Given a day or two to take stock of the situation after that shocking Saturday, Hocutt took off Tuesday on a private jet for a whirlwind day of seeing candidates.
He must’ve known when he landed back in Lubbock that night which direction he was taking the program, because by mid-day Wednesday he had convened in Austin with Kingsbury, interim President Lawrence Schovanec and Chancellor Kent Hance to hire a coach.
Unlike with some past Tech coaching searches, Hocutt didn’t spend a dime on a consulting firm.
“I think he’s got a terrific network,” Turner said. “I know he worked that network among the athletic conferences and the AD community.”
All that networking goes into the day-to-day business of being an athletic director. That’s how you lay the groundwork to get your guy in four days.
It explains how one person can see Hocutt as quick and decisive and another view him as very deliberate.
As John Wooden used to say, be quick but don’t hurry.
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