Buffs' Hagan Says 'It's Our Turn'
BOULDER — Darian Hagan has a simple yet powerful reason for wanting to return to coaching.
"It's our turn," Hagan said in a recent interview. "The foundation has been laid. I believe in Coach Mac (Mike MacIntyre), the facilities are in place and the playing field is level now.
"It our turn to do some special things and I'm glad to be a part of it. It's time for the Buffaloes to come back."
Hagan, recently named as the Buffs' running backs coach, is quite obviously no stranger to success at Colorado. He led the Buffs through three of their most successful seasons in program history, a stretch that included two outright Big Eight crowns, a tie for the league championship and a 1990 national title.
But his ties to the program, the department and the school run much deeper than his stint as a player. Along with his time in uniform, he's also worked in an administrative capacity and as an assistant coach for the Buffaloes for much of the time since his playing days ended, an association spanning four decades.
It means he's seen the ups, the downs and everything in between. He knows what it takes to be successful at Colorado, he knows what has worked — and what hasn't — and he has a deep, unabated passion for all things CU.
"It's important that we have people who understand our history and tradition here," CU athletic director Rick George said. "That tradition obviously dates back before Darian, but he was a significant part of what made us great again — and now we're at the point where we want to return to that."
Having a connection to Colorado is by no means a requisite for success at CU, and neither is it a guarantee of the same. But there's no doubt in the right circumstances a connection can be a major benefit.
"Not to take away from people who haven't played here," George said. "Obviously, we've had great success from people who didn't have that connection.
"But having someone who can tell people, 'Here's what we've done. We know how to do it because we've done it before,' can be great for our program. He was around in our best times and he's been through some of our toughest times. He knows the history because he's lived it. It's authentic."
George's connection to Hagan runs deep. He was recruiting coordinator for former coach Bill McCartney when the Buffs recruited and signed Hagan in 1988, and was part of the team that made a visit to Hagan's home and convinced him to attend Colorado.
"When you've lived it like Darian has here, when you've been here through all that he's seen, you're not selling something you didn't buy into," George said. "Darian has a great football background and deep ties to this community, university and program. We're glad he's on board."
While he played quarterback, Hagan has ample background coaching running backs. He served as the Buffs' RBs coach in Gary Barnett's last season as CU head coach (2005), then performed the same duties for five years under Dan Hawkins. He coached a pair of 1,000-yard rushers during his tenure, Hugh Charles and Rodney Stewart, who also happen to be CU's last 1,000-yard producers.
"I think I bring a unique perspective on how to play the position," Hagan said. "I didn't play it in college, but it's all I played when I was growing up — and I played with some pretty good backs when I was here."
Indeed, Hagan played with running backs that are synonymous with CU's successes, players such as Eric Bieniemy, J.J. Flannigan, Mike Pritchard and George Hemingway. Hagan is also one of the best rushing quarterbacks in CU history, with a career that included a 1,320-yard season on the ground in 1989.
"There's only one football and you have to keep these guys motivated," Hagan said. "You have to keep them honest about why they're here. They can't be selfish. It's my job to teach them and get the best out of them."
Hagan inherits a group that includes veterans Phillip Lindsay and Michael Adkins II, sophomore Patrick Carr, true freshman Dino Gordon and highly recruited incoming freshman Beau Bisharat. They'll be working in an offense that will undergo some offseason tweaks and adjustments with the addition of co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini.
"I'm not going to make any pre-judgments," Hagan said. "But I can say I'm really fired up about the chance to coach guys like Patrick Carr, Michael Adkins, Phillip Lindsay and Dino Gordon. These guys have a chance to be special."
The Buffs finished 10th in the Pac-12 in rushing last year, averaging just 156.2 yards per game. Lindsay finished as CU's leading rusher with 653 yards and six touchdowns on 140 carries.
But CU's revised offensive scheme might put a little more emphasis on the running game as the Buffs try to spread defenses out. Chiaverini is expected to bring some of Texas Tech's scheme with him, a scheme that while still heavily pass oriented, last year saw DeAndre Washington run for 1,492 yards on 233 carries.
"Everyone should be excited about this group," Hagan said. "We're going to have a lot of fun, there's going to be a lot of excitement, we're going to be passionate about it — we're going to get after it.
"It's our turn."