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Former Kansas University linebacker Greg Cole remembers well the first time he was the recipient of coach Mark Mangino’s wrath. Cole remembers not sprinting from one drill to the next, which set off his new coach.
“He tore into me,” Cole said by phone from Florida. “He said, ‘You think this is the old way? You think you can hot-dog it and walk to the next drill?’ He really let me have it.”
The reason he remembers it is it made him a better man, a better football player, and today, a better high school football coach. Cole is head coach of Woods Haven Prep in Hollywood Beach, Fla.
“He ripped into me, but I didn’t look at it as him tearing me down,” said Cole, who played one season (2001) for Terry Allen, the next for Mangino. “He was finding ways to get kids motivated. Different kids respond different ways. I never felt like he was belittling me. A lot of kids can’t take harsh constructive criticism.”
Cole added: “I ran to every drill after that and all my players run to the next drill, too.”
Cole said he hasn’t spoken to Mangino in two years and was welcomed as “part of the family,” when he visited an Orange Bowl practice. He said from a distance he’s stunned that Mangino’s job security is an issue.
“It’s been kind of crazy,” he said of following the story. “Come on, you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. He pretty much built the program from a doormat into a program that’s on the national scene. You see the facilities compared to when I was there. And when I was playing, I saw a whole lot of empty seats. My junior year we played against Nebraska and it was sold out, but Nebraska fans pretty much packed the whole stadium.”
For those who believe Mangino has the tear-them-down aspect of coaching down pat better than the build-them-back-up part, Cole disagrees.
“I played my heart out all the time and after every game he let me know he appreciated the job I was trying to do,” Cole said. “Certain coaches won’t even talk to a lot of players. His office was open when I was there.”
It’s too late for support voiced by former players to save Mangino’s job at Kansas, but it’s important to note that for every horror story, such as the one told by former player Cory Kipp in today’s Journal-World, there are several untold ones about a coach who made a positive difference in the lives of players such as Cole.
Mangino’s far too complicated a man to paint as all good or all bad. He was the right coach at the right time in Kansas football history. His pay was raised a couple of times by current adversary Lew Perkins from $600,000 to $2.3 million. When the pay goes up, so do expectations.
It’s been such a messy split and the divorce needs to become final by the end of the week. The longer it drags on without a resolution, the messier it becomes. Mangino and his agent know time works in their favor in that regard, which gives them the leverage in negotiations over how much of the estimated $6.6 million the coach has left on his contract he can take with him. Meanwhile, assistant coaches are on the road recruiting, not at all sure what product they’re selling or whether they’ll be around to reap the benefits of the sales they’re trying to make.