Quick decisions: How Washington hired its new football staff
One recruiting specialist took some convincing, but most of the new members of the Huskies' football staff joined within a few days of their interviews.
Seattle Times staff reporter
UW football coaching staffSteve Sarkisian: Head coach
Eric Kiesau: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Justin Wilcox: Defensive coordinator
Dan Cozzetto: Offensive line coach/run game coordinator
Jimmie Dougherty: Pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach
Keith Heyward: Defensive backs coach
Tosh Lupoi: Defensive line coach/defensive run game coordinator
Johnny Nansen: Assistant head coach/special teams/recruiting
Peter Sirmon: Linebackers coach
Joel Thomas: Associate head coach-offense/running backs coach
Ivan Lewis: Strength and conditioning coach
Jordan Paopao: Offensive graduate assistant
Donte Williams: Defensive graduate assistant
Jared Blank: Director of player personnel
Dennis Slutak: Assistant athletic director for football operations
Washington's five new assistant football coaches, kept under wraps the past few weeks as the Huskies hurried to put the finishing touches on their 2012 recruiting class, were finally introduced to the media Wednesday.
And as they talked to local reporters for the first time, they told largely similar tales of difficult decisions leaving good jobs but being ultimately unable to say no to what they felt was a better opportunity with the Huskies.
The one whose decision proved most taxing and controversial was new defensive line and defensive run game coordinator Tosh Lupoi. Regarded as one of the top recruiters on the West Coast, Lupoi was credited with immediately pumping life into a UW recruiting class that was lagging in the ratings. A fast finish moved UW into a consensus No. 5 spot in the conference and as high as No. 20 nationally by one service.
A Cal class that was being regarded as potentially one of the best in the nation, meanwhile, took some significant hits after the departure of Lupoi as well as Eric Kiesau, who came to UW as offensive coordinator to replace Doug Nussmeier, who left for Alabama.
Many had regarded Lupoi as unlikely to ever leave Cal, where he had grown up, played and then gotten his start in coaching.
And he acknowledged that he turned down UW coach Steve Sarkisian more than once before ultimately accepting.
He said it was a process that took "about two weeks." He said in that time he did some "thorough homework of what this opportunity really was all about and what it meant and kind of got to a point to where it felt it was right and something you couldn't say no to."
A big raise and a longterm contract surely helped. Lupoi is guaranteed at least $416,000 for the next three years if he stays through the end of the contract after having made $164,000 last year at Cal.
Lupoi, though, said leaving Cal "wasn't necessarily about the actual deal and what was offered. ... To me it was about the fit and the people that were associated with whatever, if that opportunity ... was going to come up for me, and what that place represents."
In recruiting circles, much was made of Lupoi working for Cal one day and UW the next.
Lupoi admitted, "I think that kind of shocked some families and some young men. To them it was a matter of a day or two of the transition and now I'm speaking on behalf of this place. ... I think that was kind of a shock and looking back on it of how I would redo it or regret, that transition was so quick (for them) — and for me it was a lengthy 14-15-day process of learning about this place where obviously I hadn't spoken a word about it to recruits (about) representing a different place — where now (I'm) going into the homes wearing a different (shirt). It was a little bit shocking."
Lupoi also acknowledged "it was a quick conversation" when he told Cal coach Jeff Tedford he was leaving but that "I think he understood."
The four other new assistants made much quicker breaks, including new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, who were announced as hired by UW on Jan. 2, two days after the firing of three Husky defensive assistants. Each had worked at Tennessee.
Wilcox said the process was really as quick as it appeared, saying the first call from UW came "late Saturday night and I was in the office here 11 Monday morning."
Wilcox and Sirmon each played at Oregon (Sirmon also played at Walla Walla High), and returning home was a factor.
"It was something that was a very clean, easy decision," Wilcox said. "Obviously being from the Northwest had a part in that and my family being somewhat close (he has family in Oregon). At the end of the day it's about the people."
Kiesau said he was on a recruiting trip for Cal along with Tedford when Sarkisian first called, at midnight. A few hours later, at 2:30 a.m., he was offered the job.
"My whole transaction took about 18 hours," he said. "And I'm talking about sleeping time, as well, which I didn't sleep at all that night. It was a very, very quick transition. ... That's just the profession, that's just how it works, it happens fast. You always have to be ready to make that decision if you are really serious about doing this."
• Spring practice will begin April 2, with the Spring Game April 28. Times and locations — Husky Stadium is being renovated — will be announced later.
• UW coach Steve Sarkisian said receiver Kevin Smith suffered an ACL tear before the Alamo Bowl. He recently had surgery and his prognosis for the 2012 season is unclear.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.