Advertisement

Archive for Sunday, August 24, 2003

Assistants loyal to well-traveled Franchione

August 24, 2003

Advertisement

— When Libby Franchione, the youngest of Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione's three children, graduated from high school in May, her extended family watched proudly.

That included assistant coaches who have been with Franchione long enough to watch Libby grow up.

"That's the fun part of this staff, the familial relationships," said offensive line coach Jim Bob Helduser, who this fall begins his eighth season with Franchione.

"It's been so many years for me, being a part of this, that everything before is almost oblivious to my memory."

Part of Franchione's success in rebuilding programs at Southwest Texas State, New Mexico, TCU and Alabama, has been his loyal, mobile staff.

Each time he's changed jobs, he's taken some colleagues with him. When he went from Alabama to A&M in December, he was followed by 13 assistants. They were able to hit the ground running in recruiting, which led to one of the top group of signees in the country.

"We just kind of showed up, took our crimson shirts off and put our maroon ones on," Franchione said. "We were going in the same direction from day one. If I'd brought in five, six, seven, nine new coaches with me, we would have had so much work to do to get on the same page and to share a common vision and to be together and to define roles. To get it to mesh, it could take up to a year or more."

Helduser is at his fourth school with Franchione, having started at Southwest Texas in 1990-91 then rejoining him at TCU in 1998.

Tight ends/special teams coach Mark Tommerdahl also is at his fourth stop since joining Franchione at New Mexico in 1997.

"I really enjoy the people I work with," Tommerdahl said. "I don't know if there is a secret. The staff just gets along. I trust the nine assistants I work with."

The rest of the staff includes defensive line coach Stan Eggen (started 1997 at New Mexico); cornerbacks coach Chris Thurmond (1998, TCU); assistant head coach Kenith Pope (1998, TCU); offensive coordinator Les Koennig Jr. (2000, TCU); defensive coordinator Carl Torbush (2001, Alabama); running backs coach Lee Fobbs (2001, Alabama) and safeties coach Melvin Smith (2002, Alabama).

There's also director of football operations Charley North (1998, TCU); strength and conditioning coach Rick Lafavers (1998, TCU); video intern Jeffrey Barnett (2001, Alabama) and graduate assistant David Bobo (2002, Alabama).

"I think our guys feel a spirit of team," Franchione said. "Everyone in our staff room can say what they want to say. We have a shared vision and it's not just mine. I don't think you could find another (staff) in America like it."

North gave up football after 30 years in coaching, having worked under Barry Switzer, Gary Gibbs, Danny Ford among others. Then Franchione coaxed him back to work.

"I'd been retired two months," North said. "I played golf, traveled, and all the stuff you want to do and then I decided it was time to go back to work. Fran had this situation at TCU and I ended up going with him. I told him I'd come work for two years and I'm starting my sixth."

North credits Franchione for creating an atmosphere of trust among his coaches.

"They know that he will do the best job in the country of taking care of them," North said. "He'll see those guys have an opportunity to be paid well, have an opportunity to spend time with their families.

"They also know they can coach and voice their opinions at the table."

North has been impressed with Franchione's leadership skills in holding his staff together.

"He has the ability to lead from the standpoint of being the boss and not really being the boss," North said. "There's no doubt that there is one boss but he doesn't make that point. He presence is there.

"He's a people person. My dad farmed for a long time and I've got friends who are CEOs at banks. Coach Fran could have gone to the fields and talked to my dad or he could go to the bank and talked to the CEO.

"He has all the attributes you look for in being a successful head coach and I've been around some good ones."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.