The game of pick the new coach started even before the old one had left. Speculation began regarding Nick Rolovich’s replacement even before the Mountain West Coach of the Year’s departure from the University of Hawaii to Washington State was confirmed Monday.
If you’re looking for a hint by who is now the interim coach, you are out of luck; there was none as of last night.
Most of the assistants were still at a national convention where this was obviously a hot topic, and plenty of coaches had one eye on the national championship game and the other on their text messages.
When a head coach gets hired away because of success, the first place an athletic director should look for possible replacements is that same coach’s staff of assistants. I haven’t spoken with him on this topic recently, but I have no doubt that is exactly what UH AD David Matlin has done. It’s not like Matlin is a new AD looking to bring in “his guy” from somewhere else. He is the person who hired Rolovich four years ago.
One of the biggest challenges in a situation like this is the coach who is leaving will undoubtedly take some of his staff with him — and sometimes an offensive or defensive coordinator at a Power Five conference school like Washington State will be paid a salary comparable to what a head coach at a Group of Five conference school like Hawaii can get.
Presumably, UH wants to keep the offense that was a huge part of its 10-win season humming. That would mean installing as head coach someone with intimate knowledge of Hawaii’s current version of the run-and-shoot attack. So, do offensive coordinator/running backs coach Brian Smith and passing-game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Craig Stutzmann both end up in Pullman with Rolovich, or does one of them become the head coach at Manoa?
Assistant head coach Mark Banker (who also coaches the linebackers) and defensive coordinator Corey Batoon are among other assistants from the current staff who might at least get an interview. It’s rare, but not unprecedented that a coach from the defense side of the ball is head coach of a team that plays a wide-open offense. Remember Greg McMackin?
As always in the age of social media, plenty of other names from outside have already surfaced and will continue to be tossed around. But if continuity of the offensive system, familiarity with the players (current roster and recruits), and affinity for the program’s culture are the major considerations they should be, count Smith and Stutzmann as prime candidates for the job.
Detractors will say neither has college head coaching experience. But Neither did Rolovich before Matlin brought him back to Hawaii from Nevada, where he was offensive coordinator.