In the press conference following Notre Dame’s first fall practice of the 2012 season on Saturday, Brian Kelly was asked a question about how the leadership on the team was developing with Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd now playing in the NFL, and BK took the opportunity to dive into some self reflection he went through over the offseason and to explain how that has changed the approach he is taking this year.
It started back in January when I was committed to being a better head coach in the sense that I needed to spend more time with my players. This job has a tendency to distract you a little bit, and I took it because I wanted to coach and I wanted to be around the guys. So, back in January we started every monday, our A-team, and I would meet just myself with our players. So I just think my emphasis on spending more time with the players and getting to know them better and letting them get to know me better than just sitting up in an office and well, ‘there’s where the head coach of Notre Dame sits.’ I’ve never been that kind of coach, and I felt myself sliding towards that in my first couple years. So I don’t think its anything on their part, it’s probably more on my part – being more accessible and being around the guys a lot more.
It is at least comforting to know that Kelly is willing to look in the mirror and analyze his own approach to leading the team in aiming towards a breakout third season in South Bend. We know there are plenty of challenges in being the head coach at Notre Dame that you may not find, or may not find in such significant scale, at other schools, but it is a bit telling to learn that Kelly hasn’t been able to be as actively involved with his players as he was at Cincy, Central Michigan, and Grand Valley State:
I think when there’s not the kind of results that you’re looking for you gotta look at yourself first, and that’s where I looked.
I need to coach, I need to be in the trenches, I need to be around our guys, I need to be the effective leader. Some are better from sitting up on the tower, and some are better being hands on, and I’m better [hands on]. I need to be a better head coach, and that’s what my strengths are so I’m going to them.
Kelly’s winning track record is the main reason that Jack Swarbrick and Notre Dame chose to hire Kelly to replace Charlie Weis, and there is no question that Notre Dame fans have been disappointed by two 8-win seasons following Kelly’s BCS-caliber teams at Cincinnati that were arguably stocked with less talent than he has been able to work with at ND. We all may have our own opinions on what the Irish have been missing over the past two seasons, but Kelly is clearly the one in the best position to diagnose the true issues and, more importantly, to fix them going forward. Let’s hope that more hands on approach from Kelly translates into the execution that was missing at key points during the 2011 campaign.
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