"My contribution to the kicking teams is hiring men who know what
they're doing and giving them time in practice to get the job done,"
Mark Richt said.
Letting people do their job without breathing down their neck is a
lesson Richt took from his 14 years as an assistant coach at Florida State.
"You give coach a responsibility and the authority to carry it
When Richt was putting together his staff at Georgia, he looked for
coaches who might follow career paths similar to his.
"I was looking at stability," he said. "I wanted to
instill as much
continuity as we possibly could."
That continuity figures to be put to the test as early as this
offseason as schools start looking at Bulldog defensive coordinator
Brian VanGorder, who will lead the nation's No. 1 defense into
Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday as No. 4 Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC) faces
No. 23 Florida (5-3, 3-2).
"I imagine there'll be some interest in Coach VanGorder," Richt
VanGorder, who was the head coach at Wayne State for two seasons, said
he doesn't think about being a head coach as much as he did before
joining the Bulldogs staff.
"I love Georgia. I want to be at Georgia," he said.
be here for a long time."
When the time comes, VanGorder will have a choice to make, a choice
between making the next logical step in his profession and an
environment that Richt has made as appealing as he possibly can.
"I think this is probably the best staff I've been on," said
coordinator Neil Callaway, who is in his 25th season as a collegiate
coach. "Everybody brings the same common goal, to win, and we don't let
egos get in the way."
Defensive line coach Rodney Garner said there are many similarities
between this staff and the one he was on at Tennessee in 1996 and 1997,
when the Vols lost just three games.
"Everybody seems to get along very well," he said.
"Everybody seems to
really respect one another. I think that's the most important thing."
Only one member of Georgia's coaching and significant support staff
has changed since Richt put the group together in 2000. Former running
backs coach Tony Pierce was dismissed the day after last year's Alabama
game for undisclosed reasons. Richt shuffled his coaching staff for the
remainder of the season and then hired Ken Rucker in the offseason to
Other than Pierce's sudden dismissal, Georgia's staff has been
basically drama-free, Richt said. Just once in three years has he had to
mediate a dispute between two members of his staff, he said.
"I said, 'Are you OK with so-and-so or do we need to get you
for a lovefest?'" Richt said. "They were fine, and they're fine
It's a staff bonded by football but also by family. Richt, his nine
on-field assistants and strength coach Dave Van Halanger have 30
children (with four more on the way) between them, and 22 of those are
Monday nights in the fall are family nights, as coaches' wives and
children join the team for dinner prior to practice. In the summer, the
staff and their families take a cruise together. Richt said he tries to
create "an atmosphere where their family is very welcome, an atmosphere
where the men in the room all get along."
"He's a great boss," VanGorder said. "It's been a real
understands what we're doing, working 18 hour days."
Most of Georgia's staff members didn't get to know each other until
the first hectic month after their hiring. Garner was the only holdover
from Jim Donnan's staff, and, as such, was the only coach not living out
of a hotel during his first few weeks on the job while also worrying
about selling an old house and buying a new house and finding a good
school for his kids.
"We all went through the same things in life at the same time,"
said. "It really helped bond the staff."
The coaches have a morning devotional time each day that Richt says
doesn't have to be spiritual in nature.
"Sometimes some guy you might be mad at for some reason, he comes
and tells you something that he's going through with his family you
never would have thought he'd be going through," Richt said. "We
hopefully love each other whether we like each other or not."
Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley, who coached the Bulldogs for
25 seasons, said the morale of a staff is critical to a team's success.
"It starts with the staff and permeates to the team," he said.
Richt seems to have a good eye for team-building. He didn't personally
know Callaway, Garner, Fabris, quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo or tight
ends coach David Johnson when he hired them, which is a rare thing in
the coaching profession.
"The odds of someone hiring you without knowing you are slim and
almost none," said Fabris, who was hired after showing up at Richt's
introductory news conference and with his resume in hand.
So far, things have worked out well, Richt said, but he knows this
group is still in its infancy.
"It's really good, but we're still relatively young," Richt
really haven't known each other long enough to get tired of each little
Georgia coaching staff
Head coach Mark Richt
Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brian VanGorder
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Neil Callaway
Defensive line coach Rodney Garner
Defensive ends coach Jon Fabris
Secondary coach Willie Martinez
Tight ends coach David Johnson
Quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo
Running backs coach Ken Rucker
Wide receivers coach and associate head coach John Eason