Jim Bernhardt spent a quarter-century alternating between life as a high school head coach and as an assistant on both sides of the ball at Brown, Hofstra and Central Florida. But at none of those stops was he as busy, or juggle as much responsibility, as he does now in a non-coaching role working with Bill O'Brien at Penn State.
Entering year two as Penn State's special assistant to the head coach as well as the director of player personnel, Bernhardt meets with O'Brien twice a day to provide real-time counsel on the best and most efficent way to run the Nittany Lions' football program. On top of that, which is a full-time job in and of itself, Bernhardt's duties include:
- sitting in position meetings on both sides of the ball
- attending every practice and typing practice reports reviewing each session
- assisting in the scheduling of Penn State's future non-conference opponents
- oversees how the staff approaches recruiting
- serving as a liason between O'Brien and the rest of the coaching staff
- serving as a liason between O'Brien and the academic support staff
- organizing Penn State's annual coaching clinic
O'Brien says Bernhardt earned a spot on the staff more than 20 years ago, when Bernhardt coached his future boss at Brown from 1990-92.
“It’s a vital position for me,” O’Brien said in a recent interview. “You have to have somebody who can come in here and critique you. Who is critiquing the head coach? Obviously you have a boss, which is the athletic director. They’re in the Bryce Jordan Center and critiquing me on the overall program. Jimmy is critiquing me on a day-to-day basis, and not just critiquing me but critiquing the program in a constructive way," O'Brien told Audrey Snyder of PennLive.com. “He critiques me on X's and O's, on motivational things, overall recruiting ideas,” O’Brien said. “It’s maybe something in the weight room, something structurally in this facility. He helps make the schedule.”
O'Brien's trusted Bernhardt in getting his program off the ground in State College in the first days of his tenure in January of 2012 while he remained in New England helping lead the Patriots' march to the Super Bowl.
“I was helping assess the things here and I was living in a hotel for three months,” said Bernhardt. “I’d go in at 5 or 5:30 in the morning and at 10:30 or 11 at night he’d call to discuss something he wanted to talk about or something I observed over the day. It was sometimes bad because I’d be ready to wind down and he’d be calling to check in.”
To read Snyder's full story on the relationship between the coach and his advisor, please click here.