Time to revive Sudden Impact for some brief thoughts on the Bill O’Brien departure and its aftermath. I’ve been kicking things around in my mind with the help of my readers. I’m going to pull stuff from their comments and my responses to collect those thoughts here.
Here’s a facetious suggestion from Big Al on December 30:
How about Ron VanDerLinden. He’s available, has previous head coaching experience and is a former Penn Stater (sort of). Plus, it would be a great way to give BOB the figurative finger on the way out.
Cracked me up. It would sure make the Paternoists happy, though.
However, Al went on to say:
Seriously, I almost wish they would hire an interim head coach, and let the new AD and President choose the next permanent coach. My biggest fear is that whoever they hire now won’t be able to get along with the new administration (with Peetz running the clown circus the next Prexy is almost certain to be an asshole) and we’ll be repeating this fiasco in December 2015.
And the more thought I gave that notion, the more I liked it. So I responded to Al:
On the whole, though, I like your idea about hiring an interim guy until the Old Main changes are made. It makes sense on a lot of levels, and it doesn’t put the cart before the horse. If Penn State isn’t a football dominated institution, then why would it hire a head football coach before the imminent hire of a new prexy and AD, and ass-ume that the new administrators would automatically be happy about a department head in control of so much money that they had no hand in hiring? There’s a chance, albeit remote, that the new administration would fire the coach before the season even started. At the very least, it’s a crap shoot for the coach.
Then, in a separate comment, I proposed this:
How about LJ, Sr. as interim head coach, as long as I’m making out-of-my-ass suggestions. He could retire as head coach when the new broom sweeps clean.
I believe that many people are thinking that Penn State will be able to hire a primo head coach in a day or two. It doesn’t happen that fast. But they cannot afford to wait very much longer, so an interim appointment makes eminent sense.
So, today, in response to a K. John comment, I wrote:
The forthcoming flux in Old Main is a big [factor in the coaching search]. Who will want to work in a situation where his boss(es) will change within six months or so? On the other hand, who would want to start coaching sometime around or after the Blue-White game? However, to wait that long to hire someone means a rudderless ship for half a year, right through National Signing Day and beyond — devastating to the recruiting effort, which is already in bad enough shape with prospects’ uncertainty over O’Brien leaving.
That combination of facts tells me that there’s almost certainly going to have to be an interim appointment, as Big Al proposed. Hell, Dr. Joyner is in a pickle here. O’Brien is likely to take most of his staff with him. If Schiano balks at Penn State’s overtures, which he should, if he is in his right mind, the guy who in my mind would be the logical choice for interim head coach would be Larry Johnson, who one would have to believe that O’Brien would have no interest in taking and who himself would have no interest in going. (Just thinking out my ass here.) He’d provide a transition and he would keep the waters smooth in a time of turmoil, kind of like an old, well broken-in pair of shoes. He would have to take the reins for an entire year, though.
Right around the same time as I wrote that, Bob Flounders of the Patriot News published this piece, which proposes the same thing. Great minds think alike? This might be the first and last time Flounders and I ever agree about anything.
The path forward is not as smooth as it seems to be. I’ve seen lots of speculation and found lots of underlying assumptions to be flawed, the worst of which is that the Penn State job is something any college coach in his right mind would want. Digging beneath the surface, I can find a lot of good reasons why a coach like Al Golden, who is secure in his present job, wouldn’t abandon it for Penn State. I suppose there are lots of nuances and my thinking is necessarily clouded by my lack of personal contact with these guys to determine their motivation.
What I find clouding lots of people’s thoughts is the notion that all other things being equal, a coach candidate would choose Penn State over all other offers regardless of how juicy those offers are. This Penn State pride thing gets in the way a lot. Express it this way, just as counterpoint: What coach would choose to move his family to remote Central Pennsylvania to run a program replete with problems and uncertainties when he could choose a prestigious program like UT-Austin? I mean, sometimes I hear this thinking that rationalizes Penn State as the best place in the world to coach. It just ain’t so. Call me a traitor for saying that. That’s why I think James Franklin will be the next head coach at Texas.
There are many fine institutions on par with Penn State or of greater stature. Get over the secular notion that Penn State is the be all and end all. (And Flounders, please don’t publish a story that paraphrases what I’m writing here, or I’ll think that you are getting the NSA feed from my cable modem.) Also, not only is Penn State inferior to a handful of other programs on the surface, but if you dig down you find the remnants of the Sandusky Scandal, the huge sanctions, the changing situation at Old Main, and so on and so on ad nauseam. If I were doing the hiring, I would want the prospect to strongly convince me how he (or she — oy, vey!) will cope with those issues and be able to surmount them.
A sign of the trouble facing the next Penn State coach is inherent in the crap David Jones published last night. The Paternoists are still hanging around wanting to have their way with the program. I’d sure as hell like to know the precise story about Ron Vanderlinden. At the time of his departure, I viewed it as an indication that O’Brien wanted complete control of the program and Vanderlinden, a vestigial Paternoist, was getting in the way. I believed that LJ and Vanderlinden were forced upon O’Brien, and this created friction between him and Joyner. Just who did what to whom with respect to Ron, we might never know. But it might have been the proverbial tipping point, to use a hack writing expression I abhor.
(Yeah, I’m a crusty old fuck.)
So, what do you think about this idea barfed up by Big Al, Bob Flounders, and me? Larry Johnson, Sr. as interim head coach — for a year. Your comments, please!