New Arizona coach Brent Brennan stresses development, family atmosphere

Jan 17, 2024, 5:29 PM

Brent Brennan, Arizona Wildcats head football coach...

Brent Brennan is introduced as the Arizona Wildcats' new football coach. (Screenshot)


Dick Tomey coached the Arizona Wildcats for most of the 1990s, and the staffers across that decade and into his final year on the job in 2000 have influenced the football program’s trajectory a great deal since.

It’s part of the reason why new head coach Brent Brennan, a graduate assistant on the 2000 team’s staff, was hired Tuesday to replace Jedd Fisch. One of the finalists before Fisch was hired leading into the 2020 season, Brennan now takes charge of a Wildcat program in a better place. He wants to keep the current team together and lean on the past history built by one of his mentors in Tomey.

“Lots of people talk about family. It’s a cliche in the football world,” Brennan said. “We’re going to double down on family.”

Facilities have been upgraded. A 10-win season might lose all momentum if the players transfer out, but Fisch at least proved what can be in Tucson.

“That was really fun to watch,” Brennan told reporters at his introductory press conference. “I’m married to a Wildcat alum. We watch Arizona football when I’m not coaching on Saturdays, that’s part of it.”

It will be on Brennan to keep it together, as he did building consistency at San Jose State with a 34-48 record in the past seven seasons.

“I get it. They’re a little bit hurt,” Brennan said of the Wildcats he inherited. “The reason I can say that is I just did that to a team yesterday.”

Brennan said he told his Arizona players that he would like a chance to earn their trust. Athletic director Dave Heeke said Brennan’s genuine, people-first attitude made the swift hiring process easy.

It helped that Arizona and Brennan had considered joining forces three years ago.

“I think when we were here 23 years ago, we really liked it,” Brennan said of his one-year stint under Tomey. “Three years ago was a tricky one. I was certainly disappointed (not getting the job). There was disappointment but I always had to get a team ready — it was the middle of COVID — get a team ready for a bowl game (in Tucson).”

Here are other takeaways from Brennan’s introduction to the Wildcats on Wednesday:

Which coaches, staffers could follow Brent Brennan to Arizona?

Brennan said that he toured Arizona’s facilities with Ben Thienes, who at San Jose State held the title of senior associate athletics director of football and facilities operations. Thienes is expected to join his new staff in Tucson.

Additionally, Brennan said former Tomey assistant Duane Akina has given a “decent commitment” to remain at Arizona.

The 67-year-old defensive backs coach was an analyst for Arizona this past year but had reportedly planned to re-join the Texas Longhorns along with Johnny Nansen, the Wildcats’ defensive coordinator from this past season.

Akina previously coached at Arizona from 1987-2000 before a long tenure at Texas from 2001-13.

Player development is Arizona’s plan

Brennan promised that the Wildcats’ focus is on building a “developmental program.” He added that the transfer portal is a roster-building tool that should be used strategically.

“In my mind, it’s more of a spot-fill or it’s need-based,” he said.

“The assistant coaches in January and spring recruiting always come back to me. … There’s a real opportunity to upgrade your roster because people are not recruiting high school and junior college players as heavily as they were. Everybody’s so focused on the portal.”

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