It's been a tough week for me. One of my best friends is without a job he held and loved for the past 16 years, in a profession he dominated at his four different stops over the last three decades. He deserved an ending so much better than the one he received.
I don't suspect Mack Brown will ever coach again. He hasn't told me as much, but that's my suspicion. Sad part is, I don't think the University of Texas ever really fully appreciated what he did for the school. And Mack's too much of a gentleman -- a throwback to college football's classier times -- to remind them.
"Mack is going to be a tough act to follow," UT president Bill Powers said at Sunday's press conference to announce Brown's resignation. That might be the understatement of the year.
Mack was perfect for that job. He had solid relationships with the state's high school football coaches, allowing him to successfully recruit the 5-stars from each corner of the state. And he smoothly navigated the very different worlds of 18-year-old athletes, alums, school officials, and millionaire boosters.
How do you replace a guy like that? How do you upgrade the head-coaching position at what I consider a top-five program that's not as good as it used to be because of what other schools in the region have been able to accomplish in recent years, making recruiting and competing much more difficult?
I suspect the Longhorns will aim high, but ultimately end up settling for someone on their B-list. Even more important than Xs and Os and dealing with alumni and boosters will be someone who can relate to the high school coaches in the state of Texas and build relationships with them.
With that in mind, here are five names I would have on my short list, in alphabetical order:
Mike Gundy: At age 38, Gundy took over an Oklahoma State program that was average at best and elevated it to national relevance. Since joining the OSU staff as the offensive coordinator in 2001, he has built a lot of healthy relationships with Texas high school coaches, and has recruited well in the state. Currently, more than half of the players on the Cowboys' roster, including one of the nation's top cornerbacks (Justin Gilbert), is from Texas.
Kliff Kingsbury: I'm not sure I've seen anyone toss Kingsbury's name into this conversation, but I think the first-year Texas Tech head coach would be a terrific hire. He's a smart, energetic people person, a dynamic recruiter, and one of the best young coaches we've seen in a long time. His ties to Texas are deep having played in high school near San Antonio before going to Texas Tech, where he set seven FBS passing records. As a coach, he developed Case Keenum at Houston and Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M before taking over the Red Raiders' program, where he started 7-0 this season before running into the tough part of schedule. Kingsbury would have to hire an experienced defensive coordinator.
Mike Leach: What Leach accomplished at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2009, with Kingsbury as his quarterback, is unbelievable. He's different, yes, but he has a brilliant mind, is a tremendous people person, is a great evaluator of talent, and he's well-liked and respected in the state of Texas. He's another offensive-minded guy who would need to bring along a top-notch DC. This season at Washington State, he beat Arizona, USC and Cal on the road, and almost pulled off the upset at Auburn. He would bring an exciting brand of offense that would be attractive to recruits. There's nothing conventional about Leach, but all he does is win.
Les Miles: Miles coached at Oklahoma State and was an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys, so he knows the area and does a lot of recruiting in East Texas. He seemingly disassociated himself with the job on Monday ("Oh please. Oh please. Let's not kick my name around."), but I would think he would be very appealing for Texas with a national championship and a 122-45 career mark as head coach. LSU is a good job, but Texas is an upgrade in terms of stature and money, although I suspect LSU would make an effort to match the latter.
David Shaw: Shaw has done a remarkable job in three seasons at Stanford and is a highly respected coach in the college ranks. However, he has given indications he'd like to remain in Palo Alto for a long time. He has recruited in Texas; currently, Stanford has 13 players on its roster from the state, including Ty Montgomery, a top wide receiver and dynamic kick returner. Shaw is someone you have to consider if you're Texas, and I'd think he would have to at least listen.