Plenty of praise for Cougars' hire
Those who worked closely with Paul Wulff at Eastern Washington in recent years give Washington State's new football coach solid marks for...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Those who worked closely with Paul Wulff at Eastern Washington in recent years give Washington State's new football coach solid marks for his labor over eight years as the Eagles' head man.
"A consummate professional," said Scott Barnes, who was athletic director at Eastern Washington for much of Wulff's tenure. "He's built the Eastern Washington program the right way. He's recruited solid kids, he's done a wonderful job in the state of Washington, and that comprises maybe 85 percent of his roster.
"He's developed kids that have come into his program. They've gotten better."
Barnes, now senior associate athletic director for advancement at Washington, thinks one of the perceived pitfalls of the Wulff hiring by WSU — the fact he has coached only at a lower level, the NCAA's newly named Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) — is actually a boon for Wulff and the Cougars.
"In many ways, the I-AA head coach has such limited resources," Barnes said. "Eastern Washington is a good example of a program strapped for resources. It has one of the lowest budgets in the [Big Sky] Conference.
"He works hard and he works smart. If he can get it done where the resources are as limited as they are at Eastern, there's no question he can get it done at the next level."
Wulff's first four years as head coach parallel those of Ray Giacoletti, who was head basketball coach for the Eagles from 2000-04. Giacoletti is now an assistant coach at nearby Gonzaga.
"That's great," said Giacoletti, reached on a recruiting trip. "That's huge. When it first happened [the dismissal of WSU head coach Bill Doba on Nov. 26], I thought Paul would be perfect.
"He does things the right way. He's great people and a hard worker. It's great to see good things happen to good people. He's a guy you never hear a bad word about, which is pretty rare in this business. Not one word."
One of Wulff's charges will be to help mount momentum for a fundraising campaign for a major renovation to Martin Stadium. He is not known as a flamboyant personality, but Giacoletti said, "Dick Bennett [basketball coach from 2003-06] wasn't exactly a flamboyant kind of guy, but he knew what the heck he was doing and got the job done.
"Paul will do the same with football. I think he's the ideal fit for that situation."
Mike Burns, who succeeded Giacoletti as basketball coach at Eastern in 2004, recalled how Wulff asked him to speak to his team a few years ago the night before the annual big game with Montana.
"In all my years of coaching," said Burns, laughing, "that was probably the greatest honor I've had.
"He's the perfect Coug coach. He just gets it. He was always at all of our games and likewise, we were always at his. He understands those relationships are important."
Meanwhile, former WSU quarterback great Jack Thompson said he was pleased with the hire.
"I always said, when asked, that my first choice was Mike Price [ex-WSU coach], and my second choice was whoever [athletic director] Jim Sterk chose," Thompson said. "They [WSU officials] know more about it than I do. He's young and he's solid people."
Wulff has endured a couple of family tragedies, including the loss of his wife Tammy to cancer in 2002. Noting that, Thompson said, "He's always handled himself with class. When I think of Paul, I think of that."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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