Quotes from Keith Gilbertson's Press Conference
July 29, 2003
Director of Athletics Barbara Hedges
General Comments: 'I am pleased to announce Keith Gilbertson as the next head football coach at the University of Washington. Keith's stewardship of the football program over the past seven weeks has demonstrated the strength of character and calm leadership the team will need this coming season. We are very fortunate to have a person on our staff with the background and experience to assume the head coaching position. Keith's credentials are well-suited to guide the Huskies in this year and years to come. He has been a well-respected offensive coordinator and key component of the coaching staff that led the Huskies to the 1991 national championship. His broad experience, including head coaching experience at Cal, at Idaho and as an NFL coach suits him well for this position. I am pleased that Keith Gilbertson has agreed to accept the position and appreciate the passion that he truly has for the University of Washington and the Washington Huskies. His contract will be for four years, with total compensation of 870,000 dollars.'
'We were very lucky that Keith Gilbertson happened to be here. With his background and experience, he was the logical choice. There was no question about that. Also, I interviewed all of the assistant coaches on the staff. I wanted to get their input very early about how they felt about the program, how they felt about the people in the program, and the direction that we were going. It was very clear that there was complete support for Keith Gilbertson.'
On giving Gilbertson a four-year contract: 'Certainly there were a number of options as I looked at it - interim, a two-year contract, a four-year contract. But it was very clear that there were two things we needed to do in this program. Number one, we needed to stabilize the program. And as a University we needed to give Keith Gilbertson an opportunity to succeed, and that's what the four-year contract represents. From a program standpoint we've been very lucky with the stability of our assistant coaches. They signed their contracts very early for this coming year. I think that has helped our student-athletes a lot. They felt that there was a strength and a stability in this program already before hearing who the new coach was going to be.'
'We anticipate the actual contract being signed by the end of the week. The compensation package is already established and the contract, we just have to complete it, have me sign it, the appropriate people at the University, and have Keith Gilbertson sign it. I used almost the same formula in developing the compensation package (as with Rick Neuheisel). It includes base salary, it includes housing allowance, TV, radio. There's some other compensation, Nike compensation. It includes family travel. It includes two cars. The incentive portion includes an academic incentive as well as bowl incentives. It's pretty simple and we try to keep it simple, rather than making it so complicated.'
On whether Rick Neuheisel is planning to sue: 'I am going to defer that question. This press conference today is about Keith Gilbertson and not about any prospective lawsuit.'
Head Coach Keith Gilbertson
General Comments: 'First of all, thank you very much, thank you Barbara. Coach (Don James), Carol, thank you for coming. It is a great, great privilege to be introduced as the head football coach at the University of Washington. Obviously for a guy that grew up in this state, that grew up watching Jim Owens' team while sitting in a dollar seat in the endzone, it has been quite a journey for me. I am honored to have this opportunity. What has taken place has been hard on everybody. It's been hard on our alums and fans; it's been hard on our football team; it's been hard on Barbara and it's been hard on Rick Neuheisel and his family. Let me just say this about Rick Neuheisel - I really enjoyed working with Rick and being on his staff. We shared a lot in common, in terms of offensive thinking, and I appreciate him giving me an opportunity to come back to the University of Washington. He knew it meant a lot to me, so I want to thank Rick Neuheisel; he and I are going to be friends.
'Last night my brother called and said that when I was in about seventh grade we were watching the Jim Owens Show and I looked at him and said, 'I'm going to be the head coach at the University of Washington some day.' I had forgotten all about it but he reminded me of that. The fact of the matter is that I had put away any dreams I had about being a head coach. I had been a head coach for seven years and some of them were really good and some weren't so good, but it had been a long time and I was getting to that age where I felt like, 'Jeez, if I could coach at the University of Washington for a few more years and maybe get a chance to go back to another Rose Bowl, I should probably think about the National Football League as a chance to finish my career.' This just happened to be an opportunity for me and I am thrilled to have this chance.
'I think at this time in my life I am better prepared to do this job than at any time. I am 55 years old; I am probably the oldest coach ever hired at the University of Washington, so I am experienced. I have had an association here with two great head coaches and a lot of great assistant coaches; I've been here for 10 years. I am familiar with the Washington experience. I think I know what the University wants, what our fans want, what our city wants and what our state wants from this football team. I understand the bar. I understand the expectations.
'I was very fortunate to be a head coach prior to this. My time at the University of Idaho was tremendous. I had four years at the University of California, not all of them good, in that they didn't end the way I wanted. Let me just set the record straight on this. I appreciated the opportunity those people gave me to be a head coach in the Pac-10. I coached some wonderful people, some wonderful great young people and made some life-long friends. My family and I, we enjoyed living there and so I have had nothing but good things to say about my experience at Cal. It is going to make me a better coach at the University of Washington.'
On Cal being a learning experience: 'One thing is that I am 11 years older than when I left to go there. I have had 11 years of football lessons. I think obviously I have worked hard at the craft. I have worked hard to learn to stay up, to be creative. I am a little bit of a different guy, a little more demanding, probably less tolerant just because I am getting old. Ask my children. I am probably a little tougher on players than I was in those days. One of the big advantages for me is that I know the culture here. I have had a chance to really be a part of this great program with two different head coaches and I think that will help. The best lessons you learn in life are the hardest ones you learn. That was a hard lesson for me, but I learned a lot, I am better for it and I believe it will pay dividends for me in this appointment.'
On where the team is now: 'Our team has summered very well. A lot of guys stayed and worked out. We look good, we look like we are in pretty good shape. We are anxious to begin practicing and I think our football team, based on what happened last season, has something to prove.'
On staff updates: 'I am going to announce today that John Pettas will now become offensive coordinator. Randy Hart will now assume some administrative roles and have the title of assistant head coach. Also, we are hiring Scott Pelluer, whom I know you all know and are familiar with, a well-known Northwest name as the tight ends and special teams coach. We have hired a graduate assistant who was a full-time assistant at the University of Houston, by the name Theron Aych, of who will work on defense. So our staff is complete. I am very comfortable with these people. I have been with a lot of them for four years. They are quality guys, quality teachers. I am real comfortable with our coaching staff and I am excited to work with them.'
On preserving the legacy of Husky football: 'To all of the young guys to wear the Husky helmet, to the Millens, the Redmans, the Mitchells, the O'Briens and the Schloredts and everybody that has walked down that tunnel, I feel a special obligation and responsibility everyday that I make that trip. We have a tremendous legacy here. We have tradition and I feel a responsibility [to] everybody that has worn that helmet, that played for coach Owens, coach James or coach Lambright or coach Neuheisel - the eras that I would be familiar with. I have a great responsibility to you and I am going to work as hard as I can to make sure that your legacy continues and lives on. To all the guys that have coached here, particularly coach James - what a huge impact he had on my life and my career - I am going to do the best job that I can do to take care of that position
On his mission statement: 'If I was going to make a mission statement here is what I would say: 'We want to play championship-caliber, hard-nosed, Division-I, tough football. We want our people to enjoy their experience on this campus, earn a great degree, be better people when they leave than when they came and we are going to play by the rules. I know the expectations here. I know the bar is high, and that's exciting. I've had great years here and I'm looking for some more great years. I want to thank Lee Huntsman. I want to thank Norm Arkans and I want to thank Barbara Hedges for the confidence that they have shown in me. I am excited to work with Barbara's great staff here. We just have a tremendous bunch of people in intercollegiate athletics and I am just happy to be a part of it.'
On the difficulty of this process: 'It hasn't been as tough on me as I would say it has been on other people, particularly Barbara and particularly on the Neuheisel family. It hasn't been hard on me. I've seen a lot. The one thing I know about this business is when you think you have seen everything, you see something you have never seen before, but it hasn't been that tough on me.'
On the effect this has had on the program: 'We are going to be behind in some things. We've spent basically two months fighting through things. We've had two months where maybe we don't make the progress that we normally would have made, but now the direction is clear and we can get going again.'
On where recruiting stands: 'I don't think we are behind. In fact, I think in a lot of ways we are ahead. We have more commitments now that I can ever remember having this early on in the process. I think they are all quality guys. I can't talk about them, but I think we got behind and then in June we really made a hard effort to get back in front of people through letters and having them call us. We have made some progress and made up some ground and got some real quality commitments. I don't feel like we are behind.'
On addressing the players: 'I have really not seen the team en masse since early June. We always have a meeting the first day of every quarter. We had a meeting on the first day of the quarter and I told them what had happened, what was going to take place, but I really haven't seen them as a group since then. Guys are on vacation right now, they are pretty scattered. The next chance I will get to see them all will be next Tuesday. I'm going to call some of the people that haven't been here over the summer. Most everybody knows that was around but there are some people that I need to get in touch with.'
On talking to Rick recently: 'I talked to Rick yesterday and said hello to him this morning. I will continue to talk to him.'
On what a Keith Gilbertson-led team will look like: 'Rick and I are not the same people, but we have a lot of the same philosophies offensively. I would hope that our team would look like a team that is dying to win, flying around the field, knocking the hell out of everyone that moves, playing as hard as they can play. They will be fun to watch. I know what it takes. I was here when this thing really got rolling and I know what it took. The things that Don James hammered into me were attention to detail, hard work and sound fundamental coaching, so that's what I know.'
On the difference between being a head coach and an assistant: 'Well there is quite a bit of difference. You go from being specifically concerned with running the ball, throwing the ball and scoring points, to, 'What are we going to do coming out? Going in? What time are the buses getting here? Are the meeting rooms big enough? Is there enough chalk?' You really take on more responsibilities. I remember the very first game I was a head coach I could not believe the amount of things that I had to worry about as opposed to having been a coordinator in years prior to that. I do have some experience in that and I think that it certainly helps.'
On who will call the plays: 'John (Pettas) will do that. That is what we pay John for, to coordinate the offense and call the offense. John is a really experienced play caller. He did it for years at Arizona State, before that several stops to Reno, Arizona State. He was the offensive coordinator and play caller at Louisville. I have a lot of confidence in John and I worked with him one year in the press box and so I know he sees a lot. He has a lot of good ideas and I am excited about him in that role.'
On how his relationship with the players will change: 'Well, I've got to start liking defense again. I don't think the players ever thought I wasn't stern or tough on them. I think there are some things that I'm probably different at now. I don't think there's a player in our program, or when I worked for coach James, that thought I was soft on them. But we all change as we get older. The role has to change. I'm excited about all the people on this team. I had a great relationship with those offensive kids and we had some good years, but I feel like they're really quality kids, great young people all through this football team and I'm coaching everybody. I'm everybody's coach now. The role changes. The defensive kids have asked, 'How will you be? Will you be just down on the offensive end?' I said, 'No, I went out to the lake, got coach James' old tower out and pulled it over on the track. So I'll be right in the middle.' I'm equal opportunity here.'
On getting a four-year deal: 'I obviously am gratified that the University would present me with a four-year contract. The interim thing didn't really excite me, but I would have done it, the reason being I feel an obligation to these players that we recruited and have been with some of them now for five years. For me to not accept the position to coach them after what happened to them after losing one coach based solely on the fact of a title, I thought, would have been ridiculous. It would have been a slap in their face, so whatever came around I was prepared to do it. I just felt I owed it to the kids who have been here for a long time.'
On repairing the team's image: 'When I think of the University of Washington, I think our school has a reputation as being a really good place to go play college football. That's not a reflection on anybody or anything, but I just know what the University wants and expects and so that's really going to be my job. I think if we just go out and play hard and do it right, everything will be fine. In terms of repairing an image, I probably don't want to get into that. To be honest with you, I really don't care what a lot of people outside our program think anyway. I'm pretty disinterested in that. I know what I think about this University and this program, and the people that have coached in this program that I've had the chance to work with and for. What anybody else outside our family thinks, I'm pretty disinterested in.'
On his energy level at age 55: 'The energy level is fine. I feel as energetic and as excited as I did when I was coaching at Idaho and when I was here before working for Coach James. I feel like I'm the same. I don't think I've slowed down. God, I hope not. My hip aches once and a while.'
On job offers from the San Francisco 49ers: 'I visited with Dennis, but at the time, it was the day he got the job, and we visited about it. I just said, 'I really want to stay here with Cody Pickett and Reggie, and these offensive kids. I think we're on to something, and I really would like to take another shot with these guys.' I just didn't feel like it was the time to leave Washington.'
On whether he was formally offered the 49ers job: 'We never really got to that. We talked about it. He had some staff people he retained; he took some great coaches with him. He asked me, 'Are you ready to roll?' I said, 'You know, I think I really want to take one more shot here.' I explained to him why and he said, 'Well, that makes a lot of sense.' He knows that I'm very passionate about this place, this University, this program and these young people. So it really never got to that. But we did have a conversation. And he's been very supportive about this.'
On whether he views the UW as the last stop in his coaching career: 'I'm not even going to think about an ending. I'm hopefully going to stay here for a while. I don't want to talk about an ending. I'm just happy to have this chance. I've been here for a long time. I've been here for the highest of highs - winning the national championship. I've been here for the lowest of lows -the day we lost Curtis Williams. So I feel like I'm part of this. I'm not in a hurry to go anywhere. I haven't been in a hurry to go anywhere. I've had chances to leave every year and I've stayed here because I enjoy this place as much as I do.'
Closing comments: 'I'd like to introduce my family. My wife Barbara, who's the head coach in our house. My daughter Chrissy; my son David. We have a daughter Anne who is working today, shooting a commercial in San Francisco and couldn't be here. So that's the Gilbertsons. Let me just close with this. I'm the son of a football coach, and I'm also a member of what I think is a proud coaching legacy in Snohomish County, with Tom Kegel, Jim Lambright, Dennis Erickson, and Mike Price. Guys I grew up and around, and we're pretty proud of where we come from and how we grew up. I'm not perfect, so I won't be errorless in this job. I'm going to make some mistakes. I'm excited about our players, I'm really excited about the coaching staff we have, I'm excited about our leadership. And we're going to break our ass, and go as hard as we can go to be sound, to be attentive to detail, and to be sharp. That's what we're all about. I appreciate all of you being here today, and we're excited about doing it. I'd like to go to work.'