Former Louisville coach Charlie Strong deliver a strong performance in his opening press conference at Texas.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- There were administrators at the University of Louisville who were nervous the first time Charlie Strong faced the media as the head coach of the Cardinals.
Coaching the team? No worries. Recruiting? Never a doubt. Handling being the face of the program? Hmmm.
If you remember that day, you remember Strong did fine, tearing up at several questions, pausing on others and generally looking like a guy who needed practice handling that part of his game as skillfully as he handled everything else.
Look at Charlie Strong today.
He marched into his introductory press conference at the University of Texas Monday and delivered a performance that had to make the folks at the Longhorn Network exhale.
He smiled. He joked. He shared his vision. He credited many people who have helped him navigate the coaching road, dropping names like Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer.
He talked about closing down the Texas state borders to rival recruiters. He acknowledged that winning national championships is the standard with the Longhorns – and didn't back away from expectations.
He flashed the "Hook ‘em, Horns," sign several times while saluting the terrific work Darrell Royal, Mack Brown and others have done creating the Texas football brand. He told Brown, the coach Strong is succeeding, that he will always be welcome around practice.
But the first thing that Strong did?
He cracked a joke and then credited the University of Louisville – athletic director Tom Jurich, his players and the community – for giving him the opportunity of a lifetime.
"I was just hoping I brought this cold weather with me that it would block out some of this media here today," Strong said. "I see that didn't work."
Laughter followed. Strong smiled as broadly as I have seen Charlie Strong smile. That's called nailing the first impression.
"I'm so happy for that (U of L) program," Strong said. "I will always know this: When you leave a program, you want to leave it in better condition than it was when you got it. That's what we did at the University of Louisville."
Strong did that. But make certain that you do not forget the flip-side of that equation: The University of Louisville and this community left Charlie Strong in better condition to succeed than he was when he arrived here from Florida more than four years ago.
Better condition to recruit and organize an effective coaching staff. Better condition to make game decisions on the sidelines. Better condition to control an entire locker room and guide players toward doing the right things.
But, most of all, Strong is better prepared to handle the ceremonial parts of the job.
It's not the most important part of the job. The first line goes to winning. The first line always goes to winning.
At Texas, that means winning national championships. At Texas, they'll expect Strong to at least play for a national title before his initial five-year, $25 million deal gets extended. More than a few people will expect him to win one during that period.
Beating Oklahoma and winning Big 12 titles will only be a millimeter lower on the list. Strong is already getting questions about renewing the Longhorns' rivalry with Texas A&M.
But managing the media, honoring the traditions of Texas and making certain that the necessary big shots are regularly reminded that they are indeed big shots are three other things that Strong cannot blow off.
I don't think he will. He's a savvy guy who worked a lifetime to get his first shot from Jurich and U of L president Dr. James Ramsey. He knows Texas is not Louisville. That's the reason that he took the job. He won't have to worry about cub reporters covering the spring football game, even if the Longhorns' basketball team somehow stumbles into the Final Four one day.
It's true that Strong had little interest in anything more than superficial media interaction in Louisville. He was never hostile. He simply wasn't motivated.
After his first season at U of L, a national college football yearbook asked me to write a profile of Strong for its 2011 edition, a story focused on the solid job Strong did during his first season with the Cardinals. Translation: National publicity that would make Strong look like a rising star.
Most coaches would embrace the chance to clear a 30-minute window in their calendars. Strong turned down multiple requests for a one-on-one session. When he finally agreed to talk, it was during a group session with five other guys.
Strong was not adversarial. He was simply indifferent.
I don't believe Strong will be indifferent in Texas. I believe he will be a prime-time success. He'll understand that the demands in Texas are different than the demands in Louisville.
Just as Strong left the Louisville football program primed to keep winning, Strong's experiences here put him in a better position to succeed in Texas. I believe he will.