Listening to Temple’s new head football coach, maybe Temple got the next Matt Rhule.
The only issue with the next man in charge of Temple’s football team probably isn’t that he’s not good enough. Manny Diaz may be too good.
No, seriously. Miami’s defensive coordinator is so highly regarded, he seems on the fast track for the big time. That makes Temple a way station, since, for all its recent success, it can’t be confused with the big time.
While Diaz was smart to mention his mom grew up in Delaware County until middle school before moving to Florida, he is a Florida guy, a Florida State graduate, who has never strayed professionally above Tennessee or North Carolina. His credentials are impeccable. The word on his interview, it was superb.
The clock is already ticking. The last time Temple hired a defensive coordinator from a powerhouse program in Florida … boy, it’s so hard to remember that long ago. No, wait. Geoff Collins, from the Florida Gators, two years ago. Already gone.
"I feel like I was just here,'' were athletic director Pat Kraft’s first words of his introduction.
That’s the baggage Diaz carries into his new office at 10th and Diamond. These aren’t cheap shots, by the way. Temple players deserve as much, given that for Owls seniors, Diaz will be their third head coach, with zero continuity presumably among offensive and defensive coordinators and little among position coaches.
Going back just a bit more, this makes four head coaches in nine season openers, following Steve Addazio and his two years, Rhule and his four years and Collins and his two.
The last four seasons have been the most successful four years in Temple history. So it’s easy for some to argue, hey, next man up works great if you have the right man.
Except transitions aren’t automatically as smooth as the lovefest news conferences where the president talks about it being a great day for the university and the new man explains why this is the exact right place for him. After Rhule left for Baylor, Temple lost six of its next nine games, including the 2016 bowl game under interim coach Ed Foley and three of the first four AAC games under Collins.
I was the Inquirer’s Temple beat writer during some horrendous times in the ’90s. I fully get the difference between having to buy out unsuccessful coaches and losing successful ones. But I asked Diaz, since two of the last three coaches have left after two seasons, what kind of minimum time commitment can he offer these players?
"You offer them your best every day,'' Diaz said. “Because everything else is outside of your control, you know. My theory is, bloom where you’re planted. I’ve had that theory when I’ve taken any job in this profession. I think it’s important that our players have our full commitment and we’re invested every day in their development. Everything else ... to me, any time in this profession, when you start looking at the future, and start looking at something that’s not right in front of you -- there’s so much going on today and now, that has to be attacked, and if you start looking at what’s happening down the line, usually something bad happens in the present.”
A non-answer? Actually, no. A complete answer. Nobody in this city could blame Diaz if he took Florida State’s phone call. That isn’t the issue, which is whether he’s the right guy for Temple. I asked Kraft if he wanted to address the same subject. "Where we are right now, this is a wonderful problem to have,'' Kraft said. "I will take that every single day.”
Kraft went on, "If I’m sitting there hugging Coach Diaz on the stage at the Fiesta Bowl and he tells me, “My dream job is open. I’m going to go.' Go get it, and we’ll be right back here bringing the next best coach to Temple.”
Love the one you’re with as official policy. There was a whole lot to like about Diaz at his introduction. The best thing he said, in my opinion, was that he will coach Miami’s defense in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27. That’s the right kind of message, including to Temple recruits. A smart message.
Prejudging these things can be difficult. The last time a coach left Temple after two seasons, the next guy was more successful. It’s understandable that Temple is a desirable landing spot for coaches on the rise. Forget win-loss records. The last four guys have all gone on to greater riches. Miami for Al Golden, Boston College for Addazio, Baylor for Rhule, Georgia Tech for Collins.
Nationally, Temple no doubt gets applause for this move. Call us parochial, but we’ll withhold judgment. The new guy might be the exact right guy. Just a reminder: Temple players were asked to believe the same things about the last new guy. It seemed like yesterday.