After a rough season in 2015, Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez made the decision to revamp his defensive coaching staff.
That meant firing two assistants that had been with him a long time — defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich.
Rodriguez said dismissing those coaches was “the most difficult thing I’ve done in my career.”
In the world of coaching, however, what’s good for the team trumps friendships, and head coaches often have to make the difficult determination that a change is necessary.
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre has had to make tough choices, too. Entering his fourth season in Boulder, MacIntyre’s coaching staff looks much different than it did during his first season, in 2013.
“Any time you make a change, it’s difficult, because you care about the people and love the people and understand it,” MacIntyre said. “I think (the key is) the way you handle it and the way you do it. We’re all in this business and understand that we have to keep moving forward and keep doing that. It’s always tough.”
When he was hired at Colorado, MacIntyre did what most coaches do in a new job, by bringing several assistants with him from his previous stop at San Jose State. In fact, seven of the nine assistants he hired for his original staff in 2013 had worked for him at San Jose State.
MacIntyre’s staff remained the same for his second year at CU, in 2014. Most of them worked together to rebuild the San Jose State program, but two years into their time together in Boulder, the Buffs were 6-18 and had managed just one Pac-12 win in 18 tries.
That offseason, MacIntyre began making changes, and after a disappointing 4-9 season last year, he made even more, revamping his entire offensive staff.
Going into his fourth year in Boulder, MacIntyre has just five of his nine original assistants, and only one coach on the staff — defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat — has the same job title as in 2013. In addition to making changes to his nine-man coaching staff, MacIntyre fired strength and conditioning coach Dave Forman (who came to CU from San Jose State) in the offseason and replaced him with Drew Wilson.
Making changes and recognizing when things aren’t working can be vital to the growth of a program.
“I haven’t been a guy that has fired coordinators or fired a lot of people,” Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said. “I hired them, so you have to develop them. On the same hand, you have to do what’s best for the team. Sometimes you can make a mistake (with a hire) and if you do, you’ve got to correct it, quickly.
“You can have one guy out of nine on your staff that’s the wrong fit and it causes a lot of problems.”
Two years into his tenure at CU, MacIntyre recognized the need to fix the defense quickly. Defensive coordinator Kent Baer was let go, and Jim Leavitt was hired. Last season, the offense sputtered, and the Buffs hired Darrin Chiaverini in December to work with Brian Lindgen as co-coordinators.
“I think it’s extremely important that you have to do that and work with (changes),” MacIntyre said. “Those are tough decisions for the betterment of the program and the betterment of the overall direction you’re trying to go.”
With year No. 4 set to begin, MacIntyre believes the staff is headed in the right direction, not only in terms of the quality of the coaches, but in how they get along as a group.
“I’ve been very pleased with how the staff has worked together, been extremely pleased with their work ethic,” he said. “We all get along well and they care about young people. They all want to be at Colorado and they’re excited about being there. All of that to me, is definitely in an A-plus area.”
Now, it’s time for them to perform during the season, but MacIntyre believes this is a better staff than he’s had.
“I think we’ve got more energy, No. 1,” he said. “Better expertise in some areas, No. 2; and I think on the recruiting side of it, we have some people that are more well-rounded recruiters and do a good job in that area.”
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.