Charlie Strong's poor first impression
June, 25, 2014
By Travis Haney | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Eric GayCharlie Strong struggled in a public speaking appearance at a camp in San Angelo.SAN ANGELO, Texas -- A 20-minute slot for new Texas head coach Charlie Strong stood out on the three-day schedule at the recent coaching clinic at Angelo State -- one of my stops on a recent mid-June trip through Texas. The clinic is a 40-year tradition for the state’s high school coaches to learn from their college counterpart and was one of his first outings in front of a large number of the state’s high school coaches. I was intrigued to hear what Strong’s message would be in one of his first outings in front of a large number of high school coaches.
Part of the intrigue stemmed from the perception -- held by many of his peers and even those who know him well –- that Strong is something of an introvert, and that the social aspect of the UT job might not be his, ahem, strong suit.
Those in attendance didn't seem impressed by Strong’s time on the stage. Maybe it was coincidence, but someone let out a loud laugh just as Strong wrapped.
“I think everyone was shocked. It was that bad,” one coach told me later.
“It made me miss Mack,” one joked.
Another: “If I was the coach at Texas, I would act like I had bigger balls than that.”
Strong spoke so rapidly, jamming one sentence on top of another as if he were playing verbal Tetris, that you would have thought he had two minutes, not 20. It was difficult to follow his train of thought or discern the central points being made.
The bulk of the address sounded like something more suited for parents or boosters than people who also coach for a living.
An example: He said he intended to “put the ‘T’ back in Texas” with “toughness, trust, togetherness and teamwork.”
Or the primary mission being, “We want to see young men graduate,” and “We want to win championships,” because “there’s nothing more fun than a championship.”
I jotted “LOL” in my notebook when he told coaches “either you’re growing or you’re dying.”
What does it all mean for Strong in his first year at Texas? That’s where we begin my Texas Takeaways, which include FSU’s impressive new defensive coordinator, insight behind the Lane Kiffin hire and more.
Not a Strong impression
In the most connective moment of his speech, Strong closed by inviting coaches to visit campus, and he actually acknowledged the situation. It might have been a nice place to start; it was the only portion that didn’t feel rehearsed or cliché-ridden.
“We are the premier university in this state,” he said. “I know you’re all watching to see what happens. We have some work to do. We’re going to get that done because of the staff we have.”