At his introductory press conference on Sunday, Tom Herman fumbled.
Texas’ new football coach was asked a question about what he learned from Mack Brown, who won 158 games and a national championship in his 16 seasons as head coach of the Longhorns. Herman referred to Brown by his first name.
“Coach Brown, excuse me,” Herman said. “I slip-up every now and again.”
Brown, a current college football analyst for ESPN and ABC and special assistant to the president of the Texas, was in attendance as Herman met the media for the first time as the Longhorns’ coach. Former athletic director DeLoss Dodds joined Gregory Fenves, Fred Akers and Edith Royal at Bellmont Hall. Herman met with Texas players earlier on Sunday afternoon, but linebacker Breckyn Hager and defensive back P.J. Locke III were later spotted in the crowd.
Herman, 41, was a graduate assistant at Texas from 1999-2000, but Brown wasn’t the only mentor that was name-dropped. In addition to working under Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis during his time at Texas, Herman also served as an offensive coordinator for David Bailiff (Texas State, Rice), Paul Rhoads (Iowa State) and Urban Meyer (Ohio State).
Herman said he learned about loving his players from Bailiff, and Rhoads taught him about being passionate at your current workplace. Herman estimated that Meyer schooled him on 1,000 things over his three seasons as offensive coordinator in Columbus, but the most important lesson was making sure that the entire athletic department was aligned in its mission statement.
“I feel like I went to head coaching school for three years,” said Herman of this time at Ohio State.
As for Brown?
“The thing I know that I credit coach Brown for the most is his inclusivity,” said Herman, who also said that Brown’s leadership was “eye-opening.”
“He included the high school coaches, he included the former players, he included so many people in this great program that prior to coach Brown getting here probably were not included and felt a bit disenfranchised.”
Brown said he wasn’t surprised by the success achieved by his ex-graduate assistant. In addition to winning a national championship in 2014 as an assistant at Ohio State, Herman compiled a 22-4 record at Houston in his two seasons as a head coach. Herman’s passion for people, though, was what impressed Brown the most.
“Football is very simple, people are complicated,” Brown said. “What you’ve got to do is take all the complicated people and get them in one room and make them all play better than they can… Then you’ve got to figure out who to hand it to, and who to pitch it to and how many ways to get it to them and how to line up on defense. That’s much easier than getting the guys in order.”
Brown was asked what advice he would give Herman about his old job. Brown stated he wouldn’t tell Herman anything different than what he told Charlie Strong — Brown’s successor and Herman’s predecessor at Texas. He’ll give a direct answer if asked, but he doesn’t plan on interfering.
“You’ve earned the right to do this job, so you do what you think is best,” Brown said. “I’m not going to be in his way, and I’m not going to be around a lot.”