They thought they were walking into an eardrum-assaulting Motorhead concert, and what they instead got was elevator music.
Kansas football coach Mark Mangino can throw a changeup when it’s least expected. When he does, his players have a tendency to remember it.
Halftime last season in Ames, Iowa, with Kansas trailing underdog Iowa State 20-0, was one of his most memorable changeups.
“What do I remember?” Kerry Meier said, echoing the question. “How calm the atmosphere was. Walking up that ramp at halftime, all I could imagine was how loud it was going to be in there. But coach was very calm and collected. He was relaxed and under control. I think that’s the way it was handled best. We’re under control. We’re not stressed by any means. We’re confident in what we’re doing. We have another 30 minutes to play. ... I think everyone was ready for an earful of stuff, but he did catch us by surprise.”
Asked what he remembered about halftime, senior safety Darrell Stuckey broke into a smile.
“The biggest surprise,” Stuckey said. “Coach was calm. He was pretty optimistic, and it was what we needed to hear. We were all waiting on a screaming and hollering upset coach, and he didn’t show us that. He showed us poise. He showed us confidence in us, and that’s what we needed to hear. I think he’s pretty good at knowing what to do and when to do it and why he needs to do it and the way in which he needs to do it.”
Coaching on game day is all about making adjustments and not just schematically.
“All things change with game situations,” Stuckey said. “Things that may make him go ballistic in practice might not set him off in games. Things that may make him go ballistic in games may not set him off in practice.”
As do many successful football coaches, Mangino uses fear to motivate, but he’s more cerebral than emotional. His mind is more responsible than his mouth for the Jayhawks compiling a 24-6 record in the past 21⁄2 seasons.
Mangino asks a lot of his players, but it’s not as if it’s a one-way street.
“I think no matter the circumstance or situation, coach is going to believe in us, no matter what,” Meier said, talking about the halftime in Ames. “It’s his job to believe in us and push us to believe in each other, and that’s what he did.”
Mangino also asked a lot of the administration when he took the job at Kansas. One of his most urgent requests was granted when athletic director Lew Perkins set loose John Hadl to raise the money that brought about The Anderson Family Football Complex.
Again, it’s not as if it’s been a one-way street with Mangino. Quietly, during the spring and summer, the football coach and wife Mary Jane kicked off a fundraiser for KU libraries.
A letter he sent to boosters read, in part, “Athletics may be the front porch of an institution like KU, but the libraries are the foundation. I strongly believe you can judge the greatness of a university by the success of its libraries.”
Everybody knows Mangino’s an avid reader. Who knew he’d one day be in charge of a locker room as quiet as a library, down 20 points at the half?