Monday, August 24, 2009

The more things change …

The Jayhawks’ football program has been turned around, but players say coach Mark Mangino has remained the same

Kansas head football coach Mark Mangino scans the KU practice field Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009.

Kansas head football coach Mark Mangino scans the KU practice field Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009.


When Mark Mangino arrived at Kansas University in 2001, he brought with him a reputation as a hard-working, blue-collar, defensive-minded disciplinarian.

According to the players who have put their football lives in the Pennsylvania native’s hands, little has changed during the past seven years.

“A good coach doesn’t change,” senior running back Jake Sharp said. “You know where you stand with coach, day-in and day-out. There are expectations set, and that’s the way it is. It’s clear-cut. When you do good, there’s praise, and when you do bad, there are consequences.”

Steady improvement has marked Mangino’s tenure at KU.

His first team finished 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the Big 12.

His most recent squad went 8-5 and capped the season with a victory against Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.

Sprinkled in between were seasons like 2004, when the Jayhawks finished 4-7, and 2007, when KU went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl.

Through it all, the ups and downs, the program-defining moments and utter disappointments, Mangino has maintained a mantra that many players say he personifies.

“He kind of fits his philosophy of, ‘Sawin’ wood.’ He doesn’t deviate,” said senior lineman Caleb Blakesley, after pausing before speaking. “He does what he has to do to get things going the way they need to be going. I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s changed a whole lot. He definitely runs the program the way it needs to be run.”

If anything, players say the success of the program — four bowl games in six years (and three bowl victories) — has made Mangino more driven.

“He’s more competitive,” senior Arist Wright said. “It seems like he doesn’t want anything else other than greatness. He wants the best in everything, and that’s a good thing, nothing less. When I came here, we had a 7-5 season, and now he’s got an Orange Bowl title. That makes him hungrier, and it makes the players hungrier. Expectations are high.”

That was by design.

“My aspirations for this program when I came here in 2002, (were) I didn’t come here to be 6-5, 7-4 every year, and everybody just think that’s good,” Mangino said. “I thought that if we could get this thing rolling, perhaps we could get this team competing for championships.”

That mentality is made clear to his players the minute they meet him as prospective recruits. Mangino and his staff don’t mince words when spelling out what it means to be a part of the KU football program, from performance in the classroom and on the field to the right way to carry themselves in public.

Once the players step foot on campus, the emphasis only intensifies.

“From year to year, Mangino’s become more and more driven,” senior Angus Quigley said. “He was hired to make this a winning program, and he’s done that. You have to credit him for that. You look at his record and what he’s done here, he’s turned this program around.”

Only a select few of the handful of players asked about the changes they’ve seen in their head coach admitted to seeing any.

Senior Darrell Stuckey was one of them. But even in saying that he has noticed some minor differences, Stuckey was quick to point out that the changes, however small, have made Mangino a better coach.

“Of course he has (changed),” Stuckey said. “This was his first Div. I head-coaching job, and each year he’s changed something. Each year he goes and learns a little more. I think he’s one of the great coaches who can learn on the fly. I like to look at him as a great dictator because he understands everything that needs to be done and knows how to put people in the right position to make sure the team has a great opportunity to be successful.”

Asked if he sees Mangino as more intense or more relaxed since the day he first met him, Stuckey offered another answer indicative of the kind you’d expect from one of Mangino’s captains.

“He’s a little bit of both. It depends on where you catch him, whether it’s on or off the field,” Stuckey said.

More intense or less, further driven or not, Mangino has accomplished what he set out to do. The Jayhawks have competed for championships.

With a strong senior class ready to go, including some of the most prolific offensive players in school history, Mangino and Co. could be in position for their finest year to date.

But even if the Jayhawks do win the Big 12 North division, play in the Big 12 title game and, perhaps, make a return visit to a BCS bowl game, the players who know him best know one thing is certain.

“I can tell you right now, he never gets satisfied,” Sharp said. “I don’t know a football coach in America who’s ever satisfied. Ask (legendary Notre Dame coach) Lou Holtz if he was ever satisfied. I don’t think he ever was.”


gardenjay 11 years, 4 months ago

Well, never being satisfied can also have dietary implications. Anyway, I think we should all eat more garden vegetables, and more fruit such as oranges. Oranges are a really healthy snack for Jayhawks.

Ted Toulouse 11 years, 4 months ago

OK, sorry to jump on this, but "defensive-minded disciplinarian?" How could he be defensive-mided when he was an offensive coordinator everywhere leading up to KU? Not saying that our defense looked better than the offense for the first three years but I don't see how you can be an offensive coordinator for 10 years then enter your first HC job "defensive-minded."

I love having Mangino as our coach and I hope he stays with us and considers this his final destination. I'm sensing a very large edifice being named after him in the future. VERY large :)

Kevin Sontag 11 years, 4 months ago

Yah, oranges would be nice. But I think we oughta be snacking on some Tostitos this year!

rawkhawk 11 years, 4 months ago

I love Mangino. He's nothing short of amazing.

Personally, I'm looking forward to fried mac-n-cheese bites at my local sports pub while watching KU football. mmmm

Dyrk Dugan 11 years, 4 months ago

"Not saying that our defense looked better than the offense for the first three years but I don't see how you can be an offensive coordinator for 10 years then enter your first HC job "defensive-minded."

good grief, he was an OC for two years....not 10. and the "defensive minded" piece came from a hit hard, limit mistakes mentality.....and let's face it, Snyder WAS truly an OC for 10 years before KSU, and the defense improved significantly. And Mangino learned from him.

quit nitpicking these phrases in these articles....what a waste of time for that to be your focus. we're less than two weeks to the first kickoff....let's get ready for the exciting season. Go Jayhawks!

Tim Orel 11 years, 4 months ago

I'm very excited for this year's squad - I've got a bet with a Nebraska co-worker on that game which will hopefully decide the Big 12 north. That said, however, I think next year will be the one to determine Mangino's legacy, once this year's seniors have to be replaced. If we can maintain progress, then nothing's stopping KU.

Joe Baker 11 years, 4 months ago

thetagger (anonymous) says... Yah, oranges would be nice. But I think we oughta be snacking on some Tostitos this year!

I agree tagger!! I like Tositos too.

Ted Toulouse 11 years, 4 months ago

mvjayhawk, I knew I was nit picking but it struck me as funny that every coaching position Mangino's had in college has been offense-related. He's won awards for it! and to say that he was defensive-minded just seemed inaccurate. that's all I was saying. I can't be the only one that found that statement a little weird.

Believe me, I've LOVED watching this program grow into what it has become and beyond. It would be nice to see the level of reporting be a little better as well. I hate baseball and NEED football - soon!

Rivethead 11 years, 4 months ago

You're not - I found the comment odd too.

bizzybee 11 years, 4 months ago

If you've learned anything about Mangino during his time in Lawrence it's that he values a sound defense and coaches with that mindset.

Just because he used to coach offense doesn't mean he's not defensive-minded. Perhaps those other schools simply had better/more experienced defensive coaches in place at the time.

Either way, it doesn't really matter. The bottom line is he's a GREAT coach on both sides of the ball and we're lucky to have him!!!

jayhawk2062 11 years, 4 months ago

We've got a GREAT coach. I am so pumped up about the season....I went to buy a family zone pass this morning and they're SOLD OUT!!!! GREAT NEWS!!!! I had to buy reserved tickets for the season.

Matt Kenton 11 years, 4 months ago

When Mangino was hired, that's all he talked about was defense. When you're taking over a 2-10 team, the best way to start picking up some wins is to do it with defense and that's what he did. Charles Gordon was a super-talented receiver and he moved him to cornerback.

But you're right... I'm not sure he really "brought with him a reputation" of defense when he arrived.

ShazzyD 11 years, 4 months ago

We did have the best defense in the Big 12 in 2007. Although it was atrocious in 2006 and pretty mediocre all of Mangino's other years. But having a mediocre defense was an upgrade from the previous regimes.

Jonathan Allison 11 years, 4 months ago

I think we had a pretty good defense in 2005, too. I think we were top 5 in the country in rushing defense. I remember at one point in the season we were top 3 in rushing defense and were only allowing like 50 rushing yds per game or something. Pretty decent secondary as well, with Charles Gordon and a young Aqib Talib.

Rick Arnoldy 11 years, 4 months ago

Scoring defense and total defense mean more than rushing or passing defense alone. It doesn't matter if you're only giving up 50 yards rushing if your also giving up 450 yards of passing.

Jonathan Allison 11 years, 4 months ago

Ok, well we only gave up 22 points per game in 2005. So despite giving up 66 to UT and 44 to CU we were generally pretty stout on defense. We were atrocious on offense much of the season... as evidenced by the 17-30 loss to TTU, the 3-12 loss to KSU, the 3-19 loss to OU, the 13-44 loss to CU, the 14-66 loss to UT, and the 13-3 win over MU.

Jeremy LeMaster 11 years, 4 months ago

The more things change.... I wonder how the Depth Chart is shaking out? When is an updated version expected from the coaching staff?

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