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Archive for Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All eyes on Turner Gill: Jayhawks’ coach looking to build relationships, trust

KU athletic director Lew Perkins presents KU's new head football coach Turner Gill a Jayhawk hat and jersey during a press conference.

KU athletic director Lew Perkins presents KU's new head football coach Turner Gill a Jayhawk hat and jersey during a press conference.

December 15, 2009

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Kansas Head Football Coach Turner Gill

Turner Gill was named the head coach of the Kansas football team Sunday, December 15, 2009.

More than anything, his former players will attest, the secret to Turner Gill’s coaching success has been predicated on his ability to forge and maintain relationships.

That was certainly the case at Buffalo, where he led the Bulls to a Mid-American Conference championship and their first bowl game in 50 years. Same with Nebraska, where as an assistant he helped quarterback Eric Crouch win a Heisman Trophy and was part of three national championship teams.

So while Gill’s laundry list of duties heading into his first job as a BCS-caliber football coach is considerable — implementing a new staff, familiarizing himself with the town, hitting the recruiting trail running — his priority, he said, is to get to know his existing players as soon as possible.

“They’re going to get to know me in a deep way,” said Gill, who was introduced as the new head coach at Kansas University on Monday. “We’re going to build relationships. As you begin to build relationships, you begin to build trust. And it’s going to take time. It’s not going to be overnight. But we’re going to have to spend time together.”

And the quicker Gill is able to build that trust, meanwhile, the better things figure to be for a program that has endured a rough go lately.

Since KU athletic director Lew Perkins announced last month that he had launched an internal investigation into Mark Mangino’s treatment of players, the perception — accurate or not — has been that the player-head coach relationship at Kansas has been less than stellar.

Multiple former players, for instance, insisted they had no real relationship with the 2007 national coach of the year, and while no one mentioned Mangino by name Monday — not Perkins or Gill, anyway — the former coach’s reign as head coach of the Jayhawks, as well as his recent departure from the university under not-so-pleasant circumstances, was still fresh in the minds of those in attendance.

Already in Gill’s short time at the program’s helm, however, he has made clear that things will be different at Kansas — “I want to create an environment that’s productive, where people enjoy coming to work every day,” he said. “That’s just how I’m wired” —and the general consensus among players is that a more personable touch will act as a welcome development.

“That’s what a lot of coaches want to be in the long run — they want to actually connect with their players in a one-on-one personal level as well as an athletic level,” KU freshman receiver/safety Bradley McDougald said. “I think that will definitely help.”

What also will help is that Gill arrives in Lawrence with a vaunted pedigree.

A former Heisman Trophy finalist at Nebraska who has twice been named one of the nation’s top-10 recruiters, Gill’s resume, both as a player and coach, is enough to impress even the staunchest skeptic.

As a quarterback at Nebraska, he led the Huskers to three Orange Bowls, had a three-season minor-league baseball career with the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians, coached a Heisman-winning quarterback (Crouch) and was named a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, annually given to the nation’s top assistant coach.

Oh, and for good measure, he led a laughingstock Buffalo program to a conference title in just his third season at the school.

“Just to hear him, see him, talk to him, he’s so engaging,” Perkins said. “So positive, and obviously his football knowledge is great. I just felt that he was a special person.”

News this week that Perkins had tapped Gill for his first BCS coaching job, meanwhile, came as welcome news to members of the Gill family, including daughter Jordan, a sophomore at KU who decided to attend the school only after Gill called Perkins — a longtime friend — to discuss the university.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Jordan, who recently began working for the Kansas athletic department. “I’ve always talked about Jayhawk football with him since the very beginning; I was just as excited as he was (about KU) at the beginning of the season. Now for him to be here and change the program, its going to be a really, really great thing for the Lawrence community and the school, as well.”

Although details of the contract were not available Monday, Gill is set to make $2 million annually through 2014, up from his $401,300 salary at Buffalo.

On Monday, Gill announced three members of his staff — offensive coordinator Chuck Long, defensive coordinator Carl Torbush and tight ends/special-teams coach Aaron Stamn — and has plans to interview at least some of the assistants that remain from the Mangino regime, though he didn’t indicate whether any would return to Lawrence next season.

Perkins said the terms of the new coordinators’ contracts had yet to be finalized.

Gill indicated, meanwhile, that Kansas’ offense will maintain its spread attack, though fans shouldn’t be surprised to see the occasional two-back set, either.

Defensively, he said, the Jayhawks will work out of a 4-3 formation with a focus on aggressive play and forcing turnovers.

He talked about other things, too.

He talked about his injury policy (more like NFL teams, less like the undisclosed policy carried by Mangino) and becoming a consistent power in the Big 12. He talked about his excitement and how his previous job prepared him for the struggles he’ll surely face in his first season transitioning to the BCS ranks.

He talked about Big 12 titles, but he didn’t talk about rebuilding.

“We’re here to win today,” he said. “This is not a one-year, two-year, five-year process. I’m a competitor. I love to win, and I’ve been blessed and had opportunities where I’ve been successful just about everywhere I’ve been.”

In the end, however, everything circled back to relationships: the need to build them, the need to maintain them.

“You have to come in and build a relationship with these players,” said former KU and NFL running back Gale Sayers, now a director of fundraising for the university’s athletic department. “You have to come in and talk to these players one-on-one. What did you like about coach Mangino? What didn’t you like about him? Once he gets that behind him, he can get out and start recruiting.”

Comments

Jim Knight 4 years, 4 months ago

Mr Pink, why so lacking in tolerance for other's beliefs? Why so ideological? What makes you so sure your way is right that you feel justified to force it on others (ironically, that seems to be your criticism of Mr. Gill)? Why not adopt respect as your starting point and respect others to let them believe what they believe? For myself, I'd much rather have a coach who thanks a higher power for success than one who takes all the credit for himself. But that's just me.

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emptymind 4 years, 4 months ago

WOW...Mr Pink....how heavy is the stone in your hand?

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redbull38 4 years, 4 months ago

I never understand why people are afraid of people that are religious. They won't hurt you.

Pink I am certain that Gill has never forced anyone to pray. But I am sure he would pray for you to learn how to accept people and not judge them because God is an important part of their lives.

Before you make assumptions, I am not a religious person. I don't recall the last time I was in a church.

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walleyefishn 4 years, 4 months ago

I think we need to pray for mr pink. I have asked the lord to give me strength many times and he has delivered.

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malabar_80 4 years, 4 months ago

If I had a list of favorite lines from the comment boards, I think Mister_Pink's effort would have to be at the top: "Just don't thank Jesus for the victory is all I'm sayin, for Christ's sake!"

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Mister_Pink 4 years, 4 months ago

Like I said, Jesus shouldn't get the credit if we win games, the kids should. It's arrogant, ridiculous and quite frankly, it's delusional to believe that Jesus would side with one team over another in a football game, or any contest. Just don't thank Jesus for the victory is all I'm sayin, for Christ's sake! He's really not paying attention to the dumb game.

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sadistnations 4 years, 4 months ago

maybe he can tone down the teams drug use. why do they think they are big time? they play for ku.

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Jacob123 4 years, 4 months ago

He is so clean cut and wholesome, reminds me of Tiger woods.

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MrShades 4 years, 4 months ago

Why "coach"? The man is a coach by profession! If and football players over the age of 18 voluntarily get on their knee and give thanks, what concern is it of yours?

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Mister_Pink 4 years, 4 months ago

I just don't want ol' Jesus to get the credit when/if KU can win a game under this "coach." There are a lot of non-believers that will pass on KU if they know they'll be forced to pray before and after practice, before and after games, before meals, before bed, just to get some game time. We need a coach, not a preacher.

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Richard Payton 4 years, 4 months ago

Kansas football is now more appealing with great players and coaches taking this program to new heights! I'm ready for the season to begin. With this staff expect more than a 1-7 conference season record!

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milehighhawk 4 years, 4 months ago

Mister_Pink:

Tone it down, weirdo.

Is your comment some sort of a joke? (!!!!)

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MrShades 4 years, 4 months ago

Hey Pink, Where does this article mention Jesus? What are you afraid of? Winning with character?

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hammerhawk 4 years, 4 months ago

I am ready to clean the slate, so to speak, and get on with recruiting good players and developing a great team starting right now. In the past, I never thought that KU could be extremely competitive in both football and basketball, but after Magino's tenure, I totally believe that we can be great in both major sports and I want us to be great in both major sports.

Inorder to do so, teams and coaches, students and adminstrators must be on the same page and not bad-mouthing or doing things that attempt to tear down each other.

I clearly remember star basketball player Vernon Vanoy lining up at Defensive End on the football team that was so good back in the day. THAT is the sort of concept and team play that we need today!

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Mister_Pink 4 years, 4 months ago

WHAT A JOKE!!!! SO IS JESUS ON OUR SIDE NOW?

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Rickyonealku 4 years, 4 months ago

Well Coach Turner Gill...you had my support the day Kansas started looking for a NEW Head Football coach. Plus Chuck Long is a great addition to your staff. Also more people have lined up to purchase 2010 football tickets. So lets sign some great 2010 recruits coach and again welcome and congrats.

Great Hire!!!!! You have my trust and support.

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