Why ASU’s Kenny Dillingham feels he can lead as youngest Power 5 head coach

Nov 28, 2022, 11:54 AM | Updated: 12:03 pm
Florida State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kenny Dillingham talks to players before the...

Florida State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kenny Dillingham talks to players before the start of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse on Oct. 2, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears, File)

(AP Photo/Phil Sears, File)

Native Arizonan and Arizona State alumnus Kenny Dillingham’s introduction to the Sun Devil fanbase as head football coach was passionate and full of optimism.

However, at 32 years old, Dillingham becomes the youngest head coach at a Power Five school. On top of that, he’s never been a head coach in his career.

“It’s all about leading people,” Dillingham said Sunday when asked about his lack of head coaching experience. “I’ve been leading men at Auburn at 27. I’ve been leading men at Florida State at 29 … that’s all it’s about.”

In addition to his roles at Auburn and Florida State, Dillingham coached at Chaparral High School in Arizona, at Memphis and, most recently, Oregon.

He started coaching coaching junior varsity quarterbacks at Chaparral when he was 17 years old after he tore his ACL. Eleven years later, he got his first job as a college offensive coordinator at Memphis.

So while he’s young in age, he’s seasoned as a coach with pitstops all around the country.

As he’s grown as a coach, he’s seen firsthand how players have adapted to their respective programs over time. In his press conference, he mentioned that he disagrees with the notion that players are changing.

“I think people are just allowing kids to change and people are scared to tell kids the truth,” Dillingham said. “I’ve never been scared of the tough conversation.”

That should be put to the test immediately. In fact, that’s atop his priority list.

While there’s been resounding support of this hire on social media, the newest ASU head coach still has to meet with the players and form relationships.

“[I want to] meet the players and meet the people associated with the program,” Dillingham said. “This is home for me but every place is about the people … from the janitors to the secretaries.”

The Sun Devils are coming off their worst overall season as a Pac team in program history.

While their 2-7 conference record matched that of 2016 and 2009, and bested the 1-7 record of 2001, only twice has the school finished with a worse overall winning percentage than 2022.

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