PASADENA, Calif. — The nice guy finally finished first.
Mack Brown has never disguised it. He doesn’t want to be considered a Darth Vader coach. He wants to be known as a good guy. He wants to be liked.
Well, how do you like him now?
The confetti was still flying through the Southern California night when Brown, standing on the winner’s podium at the Rose Bowl, was asked if he was having fun in the immediate aftermath of his Longhorns’ 41-38 victory over Southern Cal for UT’s first national championship since 1970.
“I’m getting ready to,” he cracked in his flinty Tennessee drawl.
Brown deserves it, because until Wednesday night, his career legacy was one of being a really good but not necessarily great coach of teams that matched the same description.
“I told the guys in the locker room that I’ve been planning this for 33 years, and now I really don’t know what to say,” Brown said. “Right now, I’m just so happy we came back and won.”
In his previous seven years in Austin, Brown coached teams that were good enough to break your heart. They won games, but would manage to lose one that left a bit of a dark cloud over something special.
In 2005, that all changed.
“Some people chase this (national title) a lifetime. I’ve been chasing it for about 20 years, but Coach Brown’s been chasing it for about 50,” said wide receiver Limas Sweed. “I’m very happy we were able to give him this because he’s a great coach and he deserves it.”
Even when things went awry Wednesday, Brown remained positive. When David Pino missed a 31-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter with UT trailing 24-23, Brown stayed upbeat, applauding encouragingly as the Longhorns returned to the sideline.
That positive reinforcement has always been his way. He’d been derided for it in earlier, unhappy seasons — after the seemingly annual loss to Oklahoma or an upset defeat to North Carolina State or Stanford. But this team, this year, seemed to thrive on the family atmosphere he fostered.
“We know how much he cares about us,” Sweed said.
And in the aftermath of the greatest moment of his coaching life, Mack Brown still was.
“I’m just trying to make sure our guys handle themselves in a classy manner,” he said. “You have to learn how to win like this.”