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Originally published January 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 6, 2009 at 2:44 PM

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UW football hires USC's Nick Holt as defensive coordinator

Even at the end, it took longer than expected. But eventually, new Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian got his man when the Huskies...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Nick Holt

Holt will be Washington's defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. He joins the staff of coach Steve Sarkisian, who, like Holt, is a former USC coordinator.

Age: 46.

High school: Bellarmine Prep, San Jose, Calif.

Playing experience: Linebacker, University of the Pacific.

Coaching highlights: Six years at USC under coach Pete Carroll — linebackers coach, 2001-2003, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, 2006-08; head coach Idaho, 2004-05 (5-18); assistant at Idaho, 1990-97; assistant at Louisville, 1998-2000.

Personal: Holt's maternal grandfather is Buster Crabbe, an All-American swimmer at USC who won a gold medal in swimming in the 1932 Olympics and then starred as Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Holt's wife, Julie, is a former basketball coach at Idaho and Gonzaga.

Even at the end, it took longer than expected.

But eventually, new Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian got his man when the Huskies announced on Monday the hiring of Nick Holt as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

Holt has been the defensive coordinator at USC the past three years. Sarkisian initially offered him a position at UW shortly after being hired as head coach on Dec. 6.

Holt turned it down, but the two began talking again last week as Sarkisian was finishing up duties as offensive coordinator with the Trojans, helping guide USC to a 38-24 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

With an agreement in place, a news conference was called for 3 p.m. Monday, then postponed, then rescheduled for 12:30 p.m. today. Holt was due in Seattle around 6 p.m. Monday.

In a brief interview, Sarkisian said the delay in the news conference was because "we just had to get some things finalized."

In a release, Sarkisian said: "This is very exciting for Husky football. I don't think we could have found a more qualified or successful defensive coordinator anywhere in the country."

Under Holt, who was Idaho's head coach in 2004-05, USC's defenses have been among the best in the nation the past three seasons.

USC led the nation this year in scoring defense (9.0 points per game) and was second in total defense (221.77 yards).

However, Trojans coach Pete Carroll is heavily involved in the defense, having been his own defensive coordinator for five years before ceding some duties when Holt came on board as coordinator in 2006.

It's thought that having total control over the defense is one reason Holt was intrigued by coming to UW, as well as adding the title of assistant head coach.

He's unlikely to make the same salary as he did at USC, where he was rumored to earn more than $500,000 per year. He's more apt to get something similar to the $350,000 package that was given to new UW offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik. Official terms are expected to be made available today.

Securing Holt means UW has hired both of the coordinators from a USC team that has won at least a share of seven straight Pac-10 titles. Sarkisian was USC's offensive coordinator the past four years and will call his own plays next season for the Huskies.

Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said in a release that adding Holt is a sign of the positive direction he thinks the program is heading under Sarkisian.

"Coach Sarkisian has been working tirelessly to recruit and to hire coaches," Woodward said. "This hire is a clear reinforcement of the confidence I have in him to put together a top-notch coaching staff."

Washington players said they were excited at the news of Holt's hiring and the vibe they are getting from the new staff.

"I'm already getting amped up," said cornerback Quinton Richardson. "Everybody is already working extra hard. Everyone has a glow about them, a new karma. I really feel something special is going on."

Holt, 46, was a linebacker at the University of the Pacific, where he first crossed paths with Carroll, who started his coaching career as a graduate assistant there in 1983. Holt was a four-year letterman and a team captain as a senior.

After graduation, Holt got into coaching, first at UNLV, then moving to Idaho in 1990 as defensive-line coach for John L. Smith. He stayed in Moscow until 1997, eventually serving as defensive coordinator, including three years under Chris Tormey.

He spent three years at Louisville under Smith before moving to USC in 2001 when Carroll took over as head coach, working as linebackers coach.

He became head coach at Idaho in 2004, compiling a 5-18 record in two years — one of the losses coming against UW at Husky Stadium in 2005, 34-6, for what was Tyrone Willingham's first victory as Washington coach. In February 2006, Holt left Idaho to take a job as linebackers coach with the St. Louis Rams before changing course and ending up back at USC.

A profile on Holt in the Orange County Register in late December noted his emphasis on fundamentals, including daily tackling drills. Tackling has been an issue the last few years for a Huskies team that has had the two worst statistical defenses in school history the past two seasons.

"You better tackle every day if you want to be successful," Holt said. "Do the guys moan about it? It doesn't matter. We're going to do it. I firmly believe fundamentals are the reason we've done what we've done."

Holt is the fourth assistant hired by Sarkisian, following Michalczik, secondary coach Demetrice Martin and defensive-line coach Johnny Nansen, who will also coordinate special teams.

Notes reported that the Huskies have received a commitment from Dorson Boyce, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound tight end from Allan Hancock Junior College in Santa Maria, Calif. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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