Oklahoma State’s Gundy still learning on the job
Mike Gundy hasn’t lost his love for dialing up the right play to
keep Oklahoma State’s offense purring along.
That passion, which he has called the most enjoyable part of his
job as head coach, was bred into him as an offensive coordinator.
Long before that, he was a starting quarterback for the
But after nearly five years in charge at OSU, Gundy realized
that it was time to start letting go.
”I knew that eventually I was going to have to get out of it
because I couldn’t keep up,” Gundy said. ”Just physically, I
couldn’t do it.”
Fairly or not, the 43-year-old coach gained an intense
reputation around college football three years ago when he
delivered his ”I’m a man! I’m 40!” rant at a newspaper columnist
after a game. It may still be the moment people know best about
him, but Gundy sees himself continuing to learn and grow as a
He said he understands now the value of patience, and
appreciates that players who are giving their best and committed to
his system will get better in time.
”You can go out there and scream at them and run them to death.
You’re not going to get anywhere,” Gundy said. ”It’s not going to
make them a better player.”
And running himself to death won’t do the trick, either.
In the same exhausting profession that caused Florida’s Urban
Meyer to temporarily step away to focus on health concerns, a
worn-down Gundy began wondering late last season whether he needed
to bring in help.
He’d already decided to take more of a hands-off approach with
the defense, trusting coordinator Bill Young’s decades of expertise
over his own background as an offensive coach. Then after last
season, he approached athletic director Mike Holder about taking
similar steps on the other side of the ball, seeking an offensive
coordinator who could handle more of the game-planning and
Gundy found his man when Dana Holgorsen, the architect of the
nation’s top offense last year at Houston, agreed to sign on.
”It’ll definitely add years to my life,” said Gundy, who added
that he’s never been asked to change coordinators. ”I love this
job because of the many challenges we face, from finding an
offensive and defensive scheme to recruiting to dealing with
(disciplinary issues) and all the things you deal with every single
day. I really enjoy it.
”I’ve always said if it gets to be where I don’t look forward
to it, I’m done. I’ll go do something else.”
Instead, he’s finding a new way to do what he loves. In putting
Holgorsen in charge of the offense, Gundy estimates that he’s
regained six hours each day to spend on other ways to improve
Oklahoma State’s football team.
He’s taking time in the morning to call recruits and doubling
the number of letters he can write to those players. No longer does
he find himself rushing into the office at 5:45 a.m. trying to
figure out what the Cowboys should run on third-and-5.
That new routine still doesn’t feel entirely comfortable heading
into his team’s season opener Saturday night against Washington
State. He believes the non-stop pace he’d grown accustomed to was
also a way to keep him from losing focus.
”That’s the one concern I have is I’m here all the time, but
I’m not running around like a chicken with my head cut off,” Gundy
He believes the head coach, like the CEO at any company, should
be working just as hard as the new guy still trying to prove
himself. Sometimes it’s hard for him to realize that while he’s not
as involved in some aspects of the game-planning, one of those
extra phone calls or letters just might end up bringing in the
Cowboys’ next program-changing superstar.
”If somebody would put a sprinkler system in your front yard, I
want to be digging the ditch. I don’t want to be standing there
telling somebody to dig it,” Gundy said. ”That’s hard for