Updated Feb 24, 2012 - 11:38 am
One thing is certain, Todd Graham gets it
I was underwhelmed by the hiring of Todd Graham as the new head coach of the Arizona State football.
It wasn't that I think Graham is a bad coach. I don't.
The coaching search and the negative press heaped upon Graham's unsightly departure from Pittsburgh to take the ASU job left a bad taste in my mouth.
That was three months ago. Since then, Graham has been praised for putting together a respected coaching staff and assembling a competitive recruiting class, highlighted by the signing of Saguaro High star D.J. Foster.
That's all well and good, but what Graham put together on Wednesday may have been his best move yet.
Graham invited Valley sports media members to an informal lunch with him and his staff just to get to know each other better. There were coaches at every table, chit-chatting about football and non-football related topics.
The head coach himself addressed the group, and talked about the importance of working closely with the local media. He talked about accessibility, transparency and accomodation. He joked about not recruiting players who can't or won't speak to the media and referred to the press as a free resource for his program.
I don't know if he can coach the Sun Devils to Pac-12 and national prominence, but I can say this without equivocation: Todd Graham gets it.
He fully realizes that he is the CEO of Arizona State football, and he very clearly relishes that role. He realizes that he can't do it alone, and he has surrounded himself with capable assistants, recruiters and administrators.
Most head coaches will say what everyone wants to hear at their introductory press conferences, only to fall short on delivering on their promises. When he first appeared on the ASU campus in mid-December, Graham stressed discipline, an ingredient that had been missing from the Sun Devils' on-field product for a while.
Wednesday, he joked that he initially thought the no- earring policy he's instituted would end in anarchy. He won't allow players to Tweet during the season. He discussed the fact that a lot of fans have a double- standard when it comes to discipline -- that they'll applaud a coach for making an example of a mediocre player who messes up but will vilify him for reprimanding a star player.
Graham has no such double-standard. And the man can tell a story.
During lunch, newly-hired running backs coach Larry Porter asked me how he and the rest of the staff could help make my job easier.
I almost choked on my brisket.
The simple fact that he asked and that the coaching staff has that attitude in itself made my job easier.
I'm officially excited to cover the 2012 Arizona State Sun Devils.