Gill Can Be His Own Man Now
Before kickoff last Saturday, fellow staffer Kevin Anderson and I strategized about how we would cover the game and among other things, how we might cover the team's entrance onto the field.
We agreed that because it was the first game under a new coach, Turner Gill would likely lead his players out as a symbol of unity and a subtle statement that a new era had begun.
What I envisioned happening was possibly a chesty walk, or maybe a tightly formed mass, shoulder-to-shoulder in rows, jogging behind their inspirational leader.
In case you weren't there, none of the above took place. Instead, a big inflatable tunnel went up and soon after Gill and the team congregated inside and took the field but not before a "stage director" held them back. When the cue finally came, Johnathan Wilson led the charge through the haze created by the smoke machines carrying the Jayhawk flag.
Admittedly, it looked kinda cool from a visual standpoint but — whatever it was — it wasn't Turner Gill or at least not the Turner GIll that everyone has been talking about. I don't believe for a second that he had anything to do with the pregame theatrics.
Coaches choose inspirational quotes from historical figures and bring symbolic items like sledge hammers into the locker room to motivate their players. They don't go to party supply stores looking to rent smoke machines.
In a mopey week after a loss like Saturday's, plenty have speculated about what the sudden retirement by athletic director Lew Perkins might mean for a guy like Gill. One way of viewing it is that it's bad news when your meal ticket checks out before you get your feet planted in the new office.
Another way of looking at it is that it's the best thing that's ever happened to him (short of landing the job).
Anyone who could once tell him to jump, sit or stand just left the building or got declawed by the Chancellor, who I'm guessing has bigger issues to worry about than the nice-guy football coach and his rough start.
In that regard, things couldn't be cushier. He is beholden to nobody and now has carte blanche to run his team the way he sees fit: Not barreling through smoke, but unified and with substance, which has been the gist of his credo since he came to town.