After Brent Brennan was hired as the new head coach of Arizona football there were a lot of questions surrounding the team and staff.
Some of those questions were answered after a bulk of returning players announced they were staying during a media timeout of Saturday’s men’s basketball win over UCLA.
There are still questions about the job Brennan will do at Arizona, but we got some time to sit and talk with the new man in charge. Here’s his one-on-one with our Devin Homer:
Devin Homer: I want to back you up to the start of your coaching career. What made you want to take the route of coaching and what made you really fall in love with coaching the game of football?
Brent Brennan: “That’s a good question. As a player I was fortunate to have a lot of great coaches in my life. As a football and basketball player in high school and as a football player in college. They were guys that I looked up to, guys that I wanted to be around. I love the game of football and just the way it brought people together and just kind of the magic of that and then the coaches I had at UCLA were really, really impactful that way. I played for Terry Donahue who’s one of the best coaches of all time, Homer Smith was our offensive coordinator, Rick Neuheisel was my position coach. So I was really fortunate to be around some really great coaches and that started getting me to think like, ‘oh, I wonder if I can do this and so started on that path.’”
You were at the basketball game (on Wednesday night), talking with some of the current players that are still here. How’s that relationship building been?
“I’m having fun getting to know everybody and I think they’re kind of having fun getting to know me, right? And you got to ask them if that’s true or not, but that part’s been fun and but it’s also been hard and time consuming because you have to spend so much time kind of giving these guys a chance to get to know me and giving me a chance to get to know them, but there’s so many of them. Right? And so trying to just take my time, have as many one on one conversation as I can. I’ve had a couple of big group discussions, but I’m trying to get an idea what they’re looking for and how I can best serve them and my role as head coach.”
Can you talk about your McKale experience? You got the speech in the middle, some big screen time on the jumbotron. Can you talk about that experience?
“It’s funny like that but that’s not my first McKale experience. When I was a student, I used to come out here for the UCLA-Arizona game every year and it was just always a fun road trip. Just like always, those two teams were always so good. Just the history, those games were epic. But this one was quite different than that and it was a surreal special moment just walking out on the court with my wife and my daughter, Casey and brother Brad was really really special and I was so appreciative of the community, the fans there. Their excitement for Arizona football. That moment just felt great and it was really special. Look around, I saw the ZonaZoo was rockin’, that was a cool thing and so just kind of a magical moment and something that I’ll never ever forget.”
For Arizona fans that are still wondering, what type of coach can they expect from you?
“I am a high energy coach. I have a lot of fun in practice, on game day. I want our players to have an enjoyable experience playing the game and working hard and getting good at football. And so like every step of the way, I’m involved in that and excited about what kind of energy we’re bringing to the practice environment, what kind of energy we’re bringing to the meeting room, energy and intentionality we’re bringing to the meeting room. So, that’s kind of where I live and we’re going to have fun.”
That high energy, the culture you’re trying to build. What are the core values your trying to instill into the culture that you’re trying to build here at Arizona?
“I think it starts with treating each other with respect and then put in the work and it’s really simple. If we will respect each other and work extremely hard, there’s no limit to what we can do.”
You led San Jose State to three bowl games in the last four years. How do you think you are going to transfer the success that you’ve found at San Jose State in those last four years and bring it over to Arizona and continue that success?
“Well, I think they’re two very different situations. But the reality is, that this team here, this year was better than the team that I had. Had a better record and higher ranking and they were really good. And so I think there’s already those pieces are in place here and but it’s still what’s most important is, these guys believe in in each other first and foremost and then trusting me and the coaching staff to put them in the right position to win football games and can we do that week in and week out as we go in the offseason to prepare for the season and put in the work necessary. To play good football and to compete at a high level.”
You’ve been on the west coast for your whole coaching career. Did you have an eye on the coaching job at Arizona, like a thought in the back of your mind about this is where I want to be eventually or was it more it’s crazy how life turns out?
“I’d say it’s a bit of both, in the coaching profession I don’t think you always get to go back to places where you had a good experience. It just doesn’t work out that way. There’s a finite number of jobs and lots of times there’s just not a job for you. Then once you get to be a head coach, there’s only 133 of them, right? So, I just feel really fortunate for the opportunities that I’ve had in this profession and when I was here, we loved it here in Tucson. We like the community, we like the vibe. Campus is awesome, it’s a little bit different feel just because of the weather and the sunshine, than Corvallis, Oregon. But just being a kind of college town where the whole town kind of centers around the university. It has its own energy, it has a different energy than a school in a big city or it just feels different and that’s what I felt that night in McKale stadium and that part has been really fun for us and so getting to come back here is a dream come true. It’s hard to believe so that’s why it’s also something that you hoped would happen but also the fact that it is you like wow, this is really happening, it’s pretty cool.”
You’re continuing to build your staff right now. What are you looking for in your coaching staff, Arizona ties, west coast recruiting ties?
“Both and then you’re looking for people that you’ve worked with before and have achieved things on a high level. But everyone that works with us is going to be people that care about young men and are also schematically and technically excellent and experts in what they teach and what they coach and so that’s kind of the baseline for me. You can’t just be all about scheme and you can’t be all about technique and you can’t just care about the kids, you have to put those packages together. You can’t just be a recruiter, like you have to put all these packages together. And you’re looking for guys that are really good at all those things because I think it elevates your program and there’s that kind of energy and that high level expertise with both dealing with people and then also working on football.”
You’ve had a lot of success in your coaching career on the offensive side of the ball. Can the fans expect a high-powered offense or what do you see the identity of your Arizona team being?
“I hope so. We used to like to say we were a scoring offense. That was it, a scoring offense. I am an offensive guy, I do spend a lot of time with the offense but I also trust my coaches to do their job, I know we’re hiring really good people. And I expect them to put together good plans and I will input and be a part of that a lot. But there’s times in my time as a head coach San Jose State where I had to go spend time with the defense and I had to be actively engaged in their process and not necessarily their game planning but just being there supporting the coaches talking through what they’re doing given an offensive perspective on what a defense might present.”
The University of Arizona means a lot to you, as you’ve mentioned. Your brother played here. You met your wife here. You were a graduate assistant here. Can you just talk about the overall feeling that you must be feeling to be the next head football coach Arizona football?
“It is surreal and incredible. I mean that, this morning when I was walking from the hotel, I was walking down the mall and then walking up towards the facility and I looked at one of the guys who I worked with at San Jose State. And I said, Isn’t this incredible? We’re just walking into this stadium in this beautiful facility and it’s through this amazing campus. It’s an incredible honor to be in this and I mean that like it’s not just something I’m saying because of my history here because of my family’s history here because of Coach Tomey’s legacy here. And there are moments where I’m like, this happened, let’s go. That part is incredible and so I can’t wait man. I can’t wait to get going. I can’t wait, start workouts on Monday. It’s gonna be fun.”