Sid Hartman: New coach makes a great first impression

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 17, 2007 - 10:20 PM

Those who didn't know anything about Tim Brewster came away from his introductory news conference with a good feeling for the future of Gophers football.

I was around when Cal Stoll made a very passionate speech after being named Gophers football coach; when Lou Holtz, a great salesman, was introduced at his first news conference; and when Mr. Jeezo Beezo, Jim Wacker, took the job. Those were three of the more eloquent speakers in Gophers football history.

Well, new coach Tim Brewster doesn't have to take a back seat to any of the above.

If he can coach and provide the same type of energy that he displayed at Wednesday's introductory news conference, then the Gophers have a winner.

Loren Tate, a longtime writer for the Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette who knows Brewster from Brewster's playing days at Illinois, made it clear the former Broncos tight ends coach isn't a con man.

"Ron Guenther, Illinois athletic director, didn't give him the privilege of an interview for our job before Ron Zook was hired [as Illini coach in 2005]," Tate said. "Had he done that, Brewster might have been the coach."

For anyone concerned that Gophers AD Joel Maturi made a mistake when he hired a coach without any experience as a head coach or even as a coordinator, Brewster sold them on his qualifications.

On this being his first head coaching position: "I have been an assistant coach for 19 years, and some guys prepare to be head coaches every step of the way. I feel like I was one of those guys." Brewster said. "With that in mind, I made great decisions about who I wanted to work with. I did everything I could do for Mack Brown at the University of Texas. I am still waiting for my bonus for recruiting Vince Young. I was a recruiting coordinator for him and at North Carolina I was a special teams coordinator. Mack and I are extremely close, so I studied the game with him."

Brewster said he never chased titles such as associate head coach. Rather, "what I chased was knowledge and understanding," he said. "I thought it was more important who you worked with opposed to what your title was. I was on a quest to learn rather than jump around.

"I only moved my family once in 13 years between North Carolina and Texas. I never lost sight of the fact that I wanted to be a head coach, and I felt like I was with a great guy in Mack Brown. I have been with three awesome guys and Hall of Famers: Brown, Marty Schottenheimer and Mike Shanahan.

"What I want to tell you is that I have studied, I've prepared, and my preparation is done. Joel Maturi and I had an extensive interview and we talked a lot about this issue and I have tremendous confidence in my ability to lead this program."

Well, I walked in not convinced this was the guy for the job. I thought they should have hired Charlie Strong, the defensive coordinator for national champion Florida, who was the last candidate interviewed Monday before Maturi and university Vice President Kathy Brown made the trip to Denver that night to offer the job to Brewster.

It's no secret that defense has been the real weakness of this Gophers team forever, and Strong, who had worked for Holtz at Notre Dame, showed in the national championship game against Ohio State that he is one of the best defensive minds in the country. And it was another plus that he was a minority.

But one thing is certain, Brewster impressed everybody. He is one great salesman, and you can easily see why he has a reputation as a great recruiter. Now if he can only coach like he can talk.

As a first impression, I would have to commend Maturi for his selection.

Didn't know Brewster

Maturi made a confession at the news conference that a lot of ADs wouldn't make when he admitted he had never heard of Brewster before the search to replace Glen Mason began. University President Robert Bruininks remarked a few weeks ago that "every good athletic director had a list [of candidates] in his back pocket" when a coaching vacancy occurred.

Well, on Maturi's admission, he didn't have Brewster's name in his back pocket. But he kept hearing his name on making phone calls to coaches and other informed people.

Maturi said he was looking for the right guy; it didn't make any difference if he had any head coaching experience.

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