Heading into 2015, Gus Malzahn’s Auburn squad had a ton of buzz going for it. They had just made a BOOM of a hire in bringing Will Muschamp on board to run the defense, who was fresh off a stint as the head coach at Florida, and for the most part Auburn also returned a loaded roster with a lot of experience in key places.
But when 2015 came to a close, Auburn didn’t live up to the buzz. The program finished 7-6, and just 2-6 in SEC play, with a win over Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl.
With the struggles they faced, Malzahn learned an important lesson that all coaches eventually come to realize sooner or later during the course of their careers: You have to be true to yourself, above all else.
“When you’ve got a job like this, there are a lot of different things grabbing at you. But that’s the challenge for all the head coaches in our league, everything that goes with the job. Some are more CEO-driven, and some are more football coach-driven. I’m going to stay true to who I am. I’m a football coach, and I’m going to do a better job this next year.”
“I’m a football coach, not a CEO,” Malzahn shared with ESPN. “I probably tried to be too much of a CEO last season. My teams have taken on my personality in the past, and I think we sort of had four or five different personalities last year, all the different coaches’ personalities. That’s on me. That’s my fault. You live and learn, and I learned the hard way last year.”
Once again this season, the Auburn defense will have to get used to another face as defensive coordinator, with Kevin Steele coming in from LSU, and they’ll also enter 2016 with a number of question marks at key positions, including quarterback.
“It wasn’t just the quarterback last year. I know the quarterback is the focal point and all that. We just didn’t execute as a whole, and that falls on me.”
“I tried to be a CEO, and I’m a football coach,” Malzahn stated before promising that they will be better on offense in 2016.
Some head coaches are CEO-types and great micro-managers, while others do best when contributing to a position group – either way, you have to find what works for you and your staff, believe in it, and stick to it.