NEW YORK – New Temple coach Manny Diaz is known as a defensive mastermind, but he is also somebody who has developed deep relationships with his players.
Loyalty is a big deal to Diaz. He is displaying that by deciding to fulfill his defensive coordinator duties one final time when Miami meets Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
Most coaches who get a new job bolt immediately. Diaz did leave to wrap up recruiting for Temple; the Owls received 17 commitments by the early signing period that ended Friday.
It meant so much to Diaz to coach his final game that he broached the topic during the interview process.
“I asked the people in the interview with Temple how they would feel if I coached the bowl game and they were very positive, very supportive of that,” Diaz said Sunday in an interview at the Miami team hotel after practice. “Step two was asking Coach [Mark] Richt and he was very positive and wanted me to come back,”
It means a lot to Diaz to coach the Miami players one final time.
“I wanted to finish what we started here at Miami,” he said.
The players also appreciate the fact that he wanted to come back for the Pinstripe Bowl.
“I thought that was a real stand-up move and he is really a stand-up guy because he didn’t have to do this,” said linebacker Zach McCloud. “Most coaches wouldn’t do that, and we welcome him with open arms because he has earned everything he has been given and I am happy for him.”
Diaz also coached the linebackers, and he was especially close with that group.
When asked what type of coach Temple was getting, first-team all-conference linebacker Shaquille Quarterman spoke in superlatives.
“They are getting a great coach and an even better man,” Quarterman said. "From the point I set foot on campus, he has been nothing but honest, helpful, and he never led me astray, and you can’t say that about all college coaches.”
This year Miami had one of the best defenses in the country. The Hurricanes have allowed an average of 268.2 yards per game, which is second nationally. Even though Diaz implemented a complex scheme, the players said he taught it well.
“As long as they tell you the purpose for doing what we were doing, then you do it a lot better,” McCloud said. “I think that is something our coaching staff has done well.”
Diaz didn’t come back just to show his loyalty. He’s out to win and said he only has to look back to a year ago for motivation. In last season’s Orange Bowl, Miami lost to this same Wisconsin team, 34-24.
“We have a chance to enact an order of revenge since Wisconsin beat us last year in the Orange Bowl,” Diaz said. "It may sound like a cliche, but we have unfinished business this week.”
So Diaz has made it known that as much as he is enjoying being around his Miami players one final time, it’s still all about winning.
And the players are grateful for all he has taught them. In a way they are happy to have him back this week, but also glad that he will be leaving, simply because it is the next step in his coaching career.
“I see a lot of people who grind it out and nothing comes their way. But to see somebody you care about and success comes their way, it’s a great feeling ,” McCloud said. “It is almost like a victory for me to see him take the next step.”