DAVIE, Fla. -- Bob Knight remembers well how the new Miami Dolphins coach got his start in the profession.
It was 1984, and after playing two sports at Indiana, Cam Cameron wanted to pursue a football coaching career. He sought help from Knight, and the Hoosiers basketball coach made a call to Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, who had an opening for a graduate assistant.
Get him up here tomorrow morning,"' Knight says. "I told Cam,Schembechler will be in his office at 8 o'clock. You be sitting on the step at 7.' He said,
Where is it?' I said,You'd better find it.'
"He was there when Bo came in, and Bo really liked him."
Some 23 years later, Cameron is starting another new job. He makes his debut as an NFL head coach Sunday for the Miami Dolphins at Washington.
"Coaching is all I know," Cameron says. "My mother married a coach when I was 13. I don't know anything else."
Does he know enough to transform the Dolphins into champions? It has been six seasons since their last playoff game, 15 since they reached the AFC championship game, 23 since they made the Super Bowl, and 34 since their most recent NFL title.
Miami went 6-10 last year under Nick Saban, and the Cameron era begins with expectations of at least modest improvement in 2007. But it's clear the Dolphins are rebuilding: 11 rookies are on the roster, including nine draft picks, the most to make the team in 10 years.
"You talk about rebuilding, and veterans don't want to hear that word," All-Pro defensive end Jason Taylor says. "But any time you have a new coaching staff, you're rebuilding.
"Cam brought in veterans - he brought in Joey Porter and Trent Green, guys he's trying to use to get this thing fixed now and not just waiting for down the road. Even with rookie guys, you never know what can happen.
"It may not take five years. It may not take one year. We'll have to wait and see."
Cameron has yet to lose a game, and he dissipated the oppressive atmosphere created by his successor, so it's no surprise his players praise him. Some of his decisions have left observers scratching their heads, however.
Cameron passed on taking Brady Quinn in the first round of the April draft, even though the Dolphins desperately needed a quarterback. He instead drafted Ted Ginn Jr., touting his return skills, then gave the kickoff-return job to starting running back Ronnie Brown. He declared the QB job open when it was a foregone conclusion Green would be the starter. He called a Statue of Liberty style play to score a touchdown in an exhibition game, instead of waiting until the regular season to pull it off.
During the preseason, such issues create only a ripple. Once the games start to count, every decision can carry seismic force.
Especially if Cameron loses.
"I'm not a worrier. I don't go down that road," he says. "The head coach is put in a position to succeed here, and I knew that before I took the job."
He was hired after five years as offensive coordinator for the high-scoring San Diego Chargers. He's the first Dolphins head coach with an offensive background since George Wilson in the late 1960s, and he'll even call plays himself.
Offense is where the Dolphins were desperate for an upgrade. The unit will have six new starters, along with Cameron's intricate playbook, which emphasizes speed, precision, creating mismatches and spreading the ball around.
"Cam understands this offense," Green says. "His extensive background in it is going to be very beneficial for everybody."
Green and Cameron worked together when both were with the Washington Redskins, and Cameron relied heavily on such past associations while putting together his staff and roster. He has previous ties with at least eight players, and he has worked before with seven of his assistant coaches.
He's much more inclined to delegate to players and assistants than Saban.
"The thing that's impressive about coach Cameron is he does not mind leaning on the people who have been around this game a long time," says defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday, a 10-year pro. "As a head coach, that's probably tough to do sometimes as the guy on top. It shows something about his character that he's able to do that."
Cameron is also quick to acknowledge his many mentors, including Marty Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil and Knight.
"They're a phone call away," Cameron says. "And that helps."
Knight, now coach at Texas Tech, says he talks with Cameron several times a year. Knight's a fan of his protege even though Cameron went 18-37 in five years at Indiana - until now his only head-coaching job.
Cameron was fired after a 5-6 season in 2001.
"Sheer stupidity," Knight says. "He took over when they had hit a low spot in recruiting. Just as Cam got the thing going, they fired him.
"He's a very bright guy and has a great work ethic. He'll work very hard. He communicates very well, and he'll work at getting players ready to play both physically and mentally. I think it'll be a really good situation for the Dolphins."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press