CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Manny Diaz is living his dream as the first-year head football coach at the University of Miami, one that came after the briefest of tenures in the same job at Temple.
Diaz talked during the Atlantic Coast Conference football media day about his passion for the university and the city, one he grew up in. His father, also named Manny, is a former mayor of Miami.
Diaz, who was the defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes the previous three seasons, was announced as Temple’s head coach on Dec. 13, replacing Geoff Collins, who left after two seasons for the same job at Georgia Tech.
It took a job of Miami’s magnitude for Diaz to cut ties with Temple, after only 18 days as the Owls’ head coach. During his time at Temple, the Owls, with Diaz visiting many of the players, secured a solid recruiting class.
In an interview, Diaz was forthright about his departure.
“I will be very honest, you don’t want to be that guy — I didn’t," he said about leaving Temple so quickly.
On Dec. 30, Miami coach Mark Richt resigned. Diaz would be hired that evening as his successor.
“When I first got the news that Mark had retired, my first thought was for Mark because I love Mark,” he said. "My second thought was, ‘Gosh, are you going to be the guy?’ "
As exciting as that thought was, he also understood the negative impact it would have on Temple.
“Obviously we were all-in, because it was such a big deal at Temple to make sure that the next guy was going to be in for the long haul, and we wanted to be that guy,” Diaz said. “People we had met — whether it was [athletic director] Pat Kraft or members of the board of trustees who I really hit it off with — there is a great sense of letting people down. We are all human.”
So Diaz, who coached Miami’s defense in its bowl game after being named the head coach of Temple, had conflicting thoughts.
“On one hand, you had this job you wanted all your life, coaching at the University of Miami, and on the other hand, you had this other thing,” he said.
He also thought of two Temple assistants he had hired, Francis Brown and Gabe Infante, and also strength coach David Feeley, whom he had retained at Temple.
Diaz said he was relieved that Temple kept its commitments to Brown and Infante. Feeley was later hired by Diaz for the same position at Miami.
Diaz understands he was roasted by Temple fans and others on social media, but he said Temple’s administration and the trustees were “unbelievable.”
“Everybody, I think, was disappointed, but there was a sense of understanding,” he said. "This would have been great and it would have been great for both of us. They knew Temple was going to be great for Manny Diaz and I believed it was, and I felt like I was going to be great for Temple.”
There have been reports that the day Richt resigned, Diaz was in Miami, interviewing a person for one of the coordinator jobs at Temple. He confirmed that was true.
“I flew in an offensive coordinator [candidate] that day,” he said. “That is when everything happened.”
Diaz said that the deal happened because of the Miami administration.
“I told them I basically had two hours for this to happen,” he said. “If they told me it was going to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I was out, because I felt there is no way I could be that guy to Temple. I couldn’t call Pat and say Miami will interview me and four other guys and the decision is on Thursday. I never would have done that to Temple.”
So Diaz told Miami it had to happen that night and the university obliged.