New Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman was able to go undefeated against top-25 teams with the Houston Cougars in large part because he assembled what he believed was the best coaching staff in America.
In a Tuesday appearance on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, Herman acknowledged that while many likely thought he was being hyperbolic with that statement, it’s one that he still believes.
By valuing trust above all else and looking for three key traits in each of his assistants, Herman was able to quickly develop an alignment with his staff that accurately conveyed his message from top to bottom.
“Our full-time staff, trust was the biggest thing for me,” Herman. “I could trust these guys are unbelievable teachers, and they’ll be completely accountable for the actions of their position group on and off the field.”
The trust translated to Herman keeping virtually his entire staff at Houston intact as he transitioned to Austin, a strong sign of the Texas head coach’s continued belief in his initial hiring decisions.
In initially assembling that group, the former Longhorns graduate assistant looked for three things — mentoring ability, teaching ability, and recruiting ability.
Those traits matter more than Xs and Os to Herman because everyone around college football runs the same plays offensively and uses the same coverages and blitzes defensively.
“There is no secret offense. There is no secret defense,” Herman said. “It’s how good are the players that are doing it, in terms of how well did you recruit? And then what is their reason? What is the passion that drives them, and how are they developed?”
During Herman’s limited downtime, he likes to read about people who have achieved success in life — leaders, business people, etc. — in an effort to understand the ingredients of greatness.
What Herman doesn’t want to have to do is use time that he could spend understanding the psychology of motivation is worrying about whether his assistant coaches are effectively transmitting his vision for the program to players and recruits.
"Having one voice and one message throughout our whole program is critical. It all comes from Coach Herman and trickles down to every person who touches our football program,” said strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight when he was hired at Texas.
Familiarity breeds effective working relationships, and that’s one major reason why Orlando decided to stick with Herman, even though he doesn’t have years of previous experience working with him, unlike most of the other assistants and support personnel.
“The biggest part is doing things that a head coach doesn't have to worry about,” Orlando said after he was hired. “There's a certain way things are done, and he should not have to explain that to guys he's been with. I think that's really important.”
As a result, there should be an easy transition period for the new staff, said assistant Craig Naivar when he joined the staff on Monday.
"I think the plan and model of how we run our program with more people on board here who have been through that process will make this an easier transition than bringing in coaches from a lot of different places," he said.
The staff also has a tremendous amount of experience recruiting in the state of Texas, which Herman noted is about relationship building during an appearance on NBC Sports Radio. In fact, he said the staff has 156 years of combined recruiting in Texas, with between 300 and 400 players signed from the state between them.
“It’s an all-star cast, and obviously recruiting is a big part of what they do, but at the end of the day they’re also fantastic teachers that dive into their players’ lives and mentor them better than any group of position coaches I’ve ever been around,” Herman said on NBC Sports Radio.