Just as his predecessor Geoff Collins did, new Temple football coach Manny Diaz won the crowd over convincingly in his introductory news conference.
In a way, the 44-year-old Diaz is a slightly younger (by three years) version of Collins.
Like Collins, he comes with the reputation as a defensive mastermind, having been the coordinator at the University of Miami the last three seasons, presiding this year over one of the top defenses in the country.
Both have outgoing personalities with an insatiable desire to recruit, a task that not all head coaches have a passion for.
In addition, Diaz talked about the importance of academics, how he wanted not only to maintain the level Temple’s football team has achieved, but surpass it.
Like Collins, who departed last Friday for the same job at Georgia Tech after two seasons at Temple, Diaz spoke of having fun.
And while all new coaches say their new place of hiring is the right one, Diaz made a point to mention that he didn’t just jump at the first opportunity.
“I was very deliberate in my time in trying to search out the right head coaching opportunity,” Diaz said during his news conference on Thursday afternoon at the Liacouras Center. “I have had different opportunities during the years and I really wanted to find something that was the right fit, but the right fit for my family.”
A source said that there was a recent head coaching possibility for Diaz.
“From the outside, there is something going on at Temple, why are they winning,” Diaz said. “There are different men coming through here and they are all having success.”
Matt Rhule spent four seasons at Temple, winning consecutive division titles and the overall American Athletic Conference championship in his final season in 2016.
Temple has been to eight bowls in is its history, but four in the last four seasons, two under Rhule and two under Collins.
Collins, who won’t coach Temple in the Dec. 27 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., against Duke, was 15-10. The Owls finished third in the AAC East Division his first year and second this past season, where they are 8-4.
Despite his being hired by Temple, Diaz felt a sense of loyalty to Miami and said he would coach in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Wisconsin, Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium.
He outlined the two short-term needs of picking his coaching staff and recruiting.
“With the coaching staff, the most important thing is, we get it done right more so than we get it done fast,” he said. “I will meet with all the current coaches to see whether they fit in with what we are doing on the new staff.”
As for recruiting, each day is essential since the early signing period is Dec. 19. Temple originally had 24 oral commitments.
“There are several key (assistant) coaches who I want to move quickly in place to try to close this strong recruiting class that we have,” said Diaz, who according to multiple sources has received a five-year deal. “Recruiting at Temple will be the primary driver with how we build our football staff.”
In his news conference, he took some time to do some recruiting.
“I do have a message for all the guys who have committed to Temple University and the message is this: You picked Temple; I can’t wait to get you on the phone, I can’t wait to speak to you and show you that if you think you made a great decision, which you did, it got even better in the last 24 hours,” he said.
Even though he is originally from Florida and never worked for a team on the East Coast, he said that the recruiting area within a three-hour radius of Temple is vital.
Diaz also mentioned that there are some Philadelphia-area ties in his family. His mother, he said lived in Lansdowne until middle school when her family moved to South Florida.
That story is likely to be repeated to local recruits.
Diaz thanked all the head coaches he has worked with, including the most recent one, Mark Richt of Miami.
In a statement released by the Miami, Richt praised Diaz for his contribution.
“In his three years in Coral Gables, Manny proved to be one of the top assistant coaches in the country, and did an unbelievable job leading our defense,” Richt said. “I have no doubt that he will experience great success as a head coach.”
Diaz spoke to the Temple players before the news conference and got good reviews from starting quarterback Anthony Russo.
“Kind of hearing about that defense in Miami the last few years, I checked it out,” said Russo, who said he would play in the bowl game and didn’t have a cast on his right hand, which prevented him from playing in the regular-season finale, a 57-7 win at UConn. “Watching some of the games, seeing him running around on the sideline having fun with that defense, that is the kind of guy you want to play for.”