be his first head coaching job, but the Frogs' 29th gridiron boss has
the coaching business
I walked into the office that former Head Coach Dennis Franchione moved
out of in December, leaving behind only uncertainty.
still felt the same. Exact same executive washroom. Commanding view of
Amon Carter Stadium. Framed pictures of the Frogs' 1998 and 1999 bowl
victories. Same polished mahogany desk.
was before Gary Patterson -- a 19-year veteran of college football and a
41-year-old father of three -- started sitting behind the desk. And before
the Frogs lost to Southern Miss, 28-21, in the 2000 Mobile Alabama Bowl.
paused and drank from a half-empty bottle of Mr. Pibb. It's pushing 3
o'clock on this January afternoon; the soda is lunch, again, for the compact,
than 10 working days, Patterson had hired all but one of his nine assistance
of them -- new defensive coordinator Chuck Dreisbach -- would later tell
me, "Gary is not going to allow anyone to outwork him."
slowly spins the soda bottle in his hands. "I guess the one thing
I did, not as a head coach but as a defensive coordinator, is I allowed
14 points in the fourth quarter," Patterson said matter-of-factly
of the Mobile loss. "I really thought our kids played hard in that
ballgame, though not always smart. In some ways I'm glad it happened like
it did, not that we lost, but the way the whole situation turned out."
situation? Oh, yes, the one that began on Nov. 14 when the Frogs were
invited to their third bowl game. Two weeks later, Franchione accepted
the head coaching job at the University of Alabama. One week later, TCU
picked Patterson, the team favorite, for the head coaching spot. Six days
later, Franchione pulled out of his earlier commitment to coach the Mobile
lost one week later. Patterson quickly waves off any attempts to blame
his former boss. "We just lost the complete focus we had in what we were
trying to accomplish," he said. "But the biggest thing in life, whether
you're a football coach or a business executive is that when problems
arise, how you solve those problems.
that's what has made me a good coach because I've never had a problem
with doing what it takes to get the job done. I think that's what you're
going to find with the staff I've brought here. They want to get the job
of four, Patterson grew up in Rozel, Kan., where his father leveled farmland
for irrigation. Patterson started working at age 9.
most of the day, took a nap, and then worked until the sun went down,"
Patterson remembered. "That kind of upbringing is just a way of life there.
Kids there start driving wheat trucks at 14."
a "hayseed" upbringing, it was a land of huge combines doing big business,
but it was small-town life. Patterson's swimming pool was the Arkansas
River. A trip to the movies meant a 45-minute drive to the one-screen
theatre in the next town.
back Patterson played football for Pawnee Heights High School, and then
for Dodge City Community College. He finished his college career at Kansas
State. After graduation, Patterson figured his coaching highlight film
would be filled with high school games.
like Western Michigan Coach Gary Darnell, and later Franchione, would
show him a different game reel. Today, Patterson has coached at 11 different
colleges -- none for more than three years until TCU. His first job paid
only $275. Others included doing the team laundry and cooking as well
as coaching. Patterson calls it a "growing-up" experience.
I learned that treating people well and establishing lifelong relationships
are more important than how fast you climb to the top," he said. "It's
better to me to move slower and establish a firm foundation -- where you
can be proud of who you are and what you stand for."
and Franchione first crossed paths at Pittsburgh State in 1985, but it
was in 1996, when Patterson became defensive coordinator at New Mexico,
that his talent became apparent. Over the four years before Patterson
joined his staff, Franchione was 18-27. Afterward, his teams went 40-19.
At TCU, Patterson
perfected the most successful defensive scheme in the country, in total
defense and scoring defense. A confusing scheme for most teams, it puts
five secondary backs on the field, including three safeties. Ready against
the pass, the pressure-style defense can also adapt quickly to the run.
difference, said the defensive coordinator Dreisbach, is that "Gary has
a knack for getting the best out of his players," he said. "That's probably
the most important quality a leader can have."
As the head
defense coach at Western Michigan last year, Dreisbach invited Patterson
to the school last spring. "We went lock, stock and barrel with Patterson's
system," he said. "We ended up ninth in the country in total defense."
Curtis Fuller knows why. "He allowed us to make a lot of calls on the
field," he said. "A lot of times, we're calling the coverages and the
blitzes, and it gets you totally involved in what the whole defense is
doing. "He encouraged us to become coaches on the field."
and his staff, the coaches on the sidelines, understand the challenges
that await them when the 2001 season opens. For one, the Frogs graduated
26 seniors, including halfback LaDainian "L.T." Tomlinson.
But the February signing of 16 scholarship players -- including quarterback
Tye Gunn of LaGrange, the state's 3A player of the year, and Blinn College
juco running back Reggie Holts -- is a good first-down play in the game plan
Patterson has in store for the Horned Frogs.
at Kansas State; if you would have told me 18 or 19 years ago that the
Wildcats would be going to the Cotton Bowl every year and beating Tennessee,
I would have wondered what you had been smoking," Patterson said. "I sense
that we have more potential here. We're sitting right in the middle of
one of the greatest football states of all time.
where my job comes in. I'm not a flash person. I'm not the guy who walks
in the room and people say, 'Wow, he's the guy that ought to be running
this or that.'
job is to keep people interested in TCU football, to win football games
and to give people the dreams they have for the University."