LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Today is Tom Jurich's 15th anniversary at the University of Louisville. Following is a Part I of a transcript of his 45 minute discussion with reporters today at the Yum! Center on U of L's campus:
Q: What's your legacy here?
JURICH: I don't like to talk about my legacy here. I don't ever want to talk in those terms. But my dad, I've used this a million times, and you've probably heard this a million times, always told me, you surround yourself with better people than yourself. And I've done that. If I've succeeded in one team, it's definitely been that.
I've said many times, I want to be little brother. I want to be Avis. I want that, "we try harder" atmosphere. I want that around our department and I want our people to be hungry for that. But my ultimate goal is that I want little brother to be 6-4 and 285. And that's what we've been able to do. We've been able to succeed in a lot of different ways. The thing the department has been so great about is that everybody has worked together to make this happen. The one goal I had when I came here was I didn't want to be just a one-sport town. I wanted a program that was good across the board. And I remember coming here and Lamar Daniel who was a consultant for Title IX at the time, told me we needed to drop three or four men's sports. And I thought, I can't take the job, because I'm a builder. I don't want to drop sports, I want to build sports. And he said financially you won't be able to do it. I think everybody remembers us going through all that and it was painful, but I think this school will be better off for it for the next hundred, two hundred years, because we did strive for excellence in Title IX, and we strived to be the best we could be with a major football program. And looking at it now, are we the best? Absolutely not. But we're in the conversation, which is good.
Q: Do you have any top accomplishment, or any one regret that you would go back and change?
JURICH: You can second-guess yourself all the time. I challenge our staff to look in the mirror every day. That's your best friend or your worst enemy. And I choose to make it your best friend. But there are a lot of times I've looked in that mirror and seen my worst enemy. You go back and say I wish I'd have done this differently. But I don't have any regrets. This is me. I believe I'm open and honest. I think I'm approachable. I try to do things with class and integrity. I strive to make the right decisions. I'm not sure I have, but I strive to.
Q: What attracted you to come here?
JURICH: I didn't know anything about Louisville. It was Harry Jones and Sam Rechter who kind of discovered me out at Colorado State. Colorado State at the time was a kind of similar program. They had a lot of problems when I went in there and we just assembled good people and we just got everybody feeling good about each other. We didn't have anything. We didn't have any money. It's a hard place to raise money. It was a beautiful, beautiful campus. It looked like a state park. But it was a difficult job. You talk about little brother, you're really little brother there. You're fighting for everything you have there. But Harry and Sam came out to visit me. And I love this story, because we were at a golf tournament up in the mountains, about 35-45 miles from Fort Collins, a beautiful place. And that was our fundraiser, our one fundraiser of the year. And we were green and gold. It looked like a John Deere convention. But these two guys walk in wearing bright red, and you talk about standing out. So they rented a condominium at this golf course and said we need 20 minutes to talk to you. So I said, "I'm in group 1A, I'm done, so you've got 20 minutes." It was raining and I'm all muddy and everything. And I'll never forget, they sat me down and gave me two Bud Lights, one in each hand, and said let's talk. And that's how the whole thing started.
Q: Did you take a pass on the job at one point?
JURICH: I took four passes. It had nothing to do with Louisville. I had never been to Louisville. I just knew I had a great place at Colorado State. I loved the people. Terilynn was from Wyoming, and it was the closest job you could possibly have without having to live in Wyoming. And we could get up there and see her parents and do all those things. Just loved everything about it.
Q: How long do you want to do this?
JURICH: I want to keep working. I don't see myself ever retiring. That's what I'm trying to sell to our hardheaded basketball coach, when he retires. That's what I tell him. My dad's goal in live was to hit 58 or 60 or whatever retirement age was so he could go play golf. He retired as a senior vice president at TransAmerica. Worked hard, hard, hard, got to retire, played golf for about two months and said, "What the hell am I doing?" He was bored to death. Couldn't read enough newspapers. There was not enough for him to do, and I truly believe that was a contributing factor to the end of his life. I think that took so much out of him. I don't look forward to that day I retire. I want to keep going, as long as they'll have me. I know there will be an ending sometime. But right now I'd like to go another 15 years. I'd like to see this place be the best it can possibly be.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you think you'll face in the years ahead?
JURICH: That changes. Today you might look at it and say it's the conference. But the conference might turn out to be a great asset, you don't know. It might be financial, or who the governor is. It might be who the coaches are. You don't know. In athletics, you can't predict.
Q: Coach Strong told us about the process of you interviewing and hiring him. How did you sell it to him?
JURICH: I thought for the last couple of years of the previous regime, that he would be the perfect fit. I knew Urban, because Urban had worked with us at Colorado State, and Urban thought the world of him. I talked to a lot of people, Seth Hancock, quite a bit, who knew Charlie. And I was very fortunate. When I was drafted by the Steelers I was there for about 15 seconds, I got to meet a guy who was really, really impressive, and when I went to the University of Minnesota, was his alma mater. And that was Tony Dungy. So I was able to develop a friendship with Tony Dungy. Now Tony's got 600 million friends and I'm only one of them, but I called on him quite a bit through this whole process. Now when you call on somebody in this process, you always here, "Well he's a great guy." Well I didn't need a great guy. I needed a great person, who had great character, who was a great coach and would be a great teacher and will be a great fit in the community. And Tony really sold me on those things.
Q: Coach Strong said you only asked him one question in the interview.
JURICH: Yeah. "Do you want be the head coach? Do you accept it?" And then he said yes and I said let's start the interview.
Midway through the press conference, U of L basketball coach Rick Pitino came into the room and spoke with reporters about Jurich, as he was leaving, Jurich grabbed his arm and there was the following exchange:
JURICH: "Before you leave, let's save these guys a trip next week. We get to extend your contract, right?
PITINO: Yeah. So I can die on the court.
JURICH (continuing after Pitino left): I want him to sign it. I want to take him out another five, and then to age 70. As you see, he's 60 going on 35. I really believe that, because we see it every day. . . . This guy's got more energy than any human alive. I think it would be a crime to see him retire.
Q: Is he balking? Are you having trouble getting him to agree?
JURICH: Well the problem is that he doesn't need anything. Can't give him a horse, tickets to the track. So we'll just play on his passion. I think he's leaning that way. Originally he said we're going to sign one and that's it. But I think you have to credit this to these kids. There's no other way to look at it. Not the success, not the Final Four, not the 1, 2, 3, 8 ranking, whatever we are. It's these kids. It's something special. I've never seen him like this. Last year was great chemistry, and this year is even better. We've always had a deal. As long as you're happy and healthy, stay. He said yeah, yeah, yeah. I think he thought 65 would be it. I think one more (contract) will be great for him, then we'll work on the next one after that.
Q: Are you optimistic?
JURICH: I think so. Have we agreed to anything? No. But he knows we can put so much pressure on him it will make him wilt.
Q: How difficult is football scheduling?
JURICH: Football scheduling, believe it or not, has always been one of the most difficult parts of this job. It's incredible to get people to jump in and play each other. We've had so many close, close calls on who we'd get to schedule. The No. 1 thing to me still will remain to get Indiana on the football schedule. Not to put them in a bad position, I'm not saying it to do that. But that's just a game that's great for everybody. And I know Rick wants to play Tom and I think Tom wants to play too. So I think we'll get that'll all get worked out. That would be a great school to play in every, single sport. And I'd envision some kind of a Kroger Cup, because we'd get them to sponsor it, or somebody, a very friendly rivalry. And I think it would be a friendly rivalry. So that's something we're working on and we are speaking with them. I think Fred Glass is a great guy. The little bit I've come to know him, I've really enjoyed working with him. So that, to me, is a no-brainer. And you always have to take care of no-brainers first. Us playing Kentucky, and us playing Indiana, I think is a must. And then we do want to beef up our football schedule, because moving forward we must assume we're in the conference we're in, and I want to make sure that we want to give our coaches and fans the opportunity to play at the very highest level. So we want to step up in that way, too.
Q: What can you tell us about conference movement?
JURICH: There's nothing. You know about as much as I know. The thing is, I think we're very impressive to people out there, but you can't go to the dance unless somebody wants you to go with them. So all we can do here is take care of things on this campus, make sure everything is the best we possibly can be. I said that when somebody asked me, do you feel stuck? I don't feel stuck in the Big East. I feel sorry for schools that are not in the league that are really on the outside looking in. The Big East has a lot of positives coming. This television contract, I don't have to tell anybody, is going to be a big thing. It's exciting. The thing the Big East has working against it right now is you have a bunch of new teams coming in. But the great bank of experience that I have to look back on, six or seven years ago when we came into the Big East, we were Central Florida. We were Houston. We were Temple. Name a school. That was us. I see what the Big East has done for us. And I remember at the time all the criticism the Big East took for taking us. I've worn that hat. That's why I won't ever criticize it. And I think you go back to commissioner Marinatto. He took a lot of shots, but his vision is starting to pay pretty good dividends. Everything he said was going to come true is going to come true. He went out, attracted cities, San Diego, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, brought a football market back with Temple, which I think the great winner of this whole expansion will be Temple football. What is really driving these deals is television sets, and he was a great visionary on that part of it. I wish he was around to see it.
Q: Rick Pitino has said that you going on national TV and saying you wanted him to be U of L's next coach is what started the ball rolling for him to come here. Looking back, how big a risk was that?
JURICH: At the time it was the Conference USA tournament and we were hosting it. There was no other time we'd be able to assemble that much media. And we had to get his attention, because I couldn't get it. So somehow Kenny (Klein) finagled it to get us on ESPNNews, and we tried to get the word to him (Pitino) to watch the news conference. And I wanted to throw it at him. Because I knew, I knew how this state of Kentucky really felt about him. And you had to replace a hall of fame coach with a hall of fame coach. That's something I just felt was a necessity and I think our kids deserved it and our fans deserved it. So we got him just to crack the door and listen and what it did it showed him I was nuts. That's what he told (attorney) Brett Rice. He said, "This guy's crazy." It was a one-horse race. There wasn't a Plan B, there really wasn't. We would have had to get to a Plan B, obviously, but there wasn't one at the time.
TO BE CONTINUED. Part II will follow in a bit.
Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
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