After eight months, UW coach Steve Sarkisian looks comfortable behind the wheel
The weird thing about new coaching hires is that we celebrate them before we even learn if they're worth their whistles. They receive standing ovations...
Seattle Times staff columnist
The weird thing about new coaching hires is that we celebrate them before we even learn if they're worth their whistles. They receive standing ovations at other sporting events and invitations to throw out the first pitch at baseball games and requests to speak before audiences with goo-goo eyes.
They spend months on these get-to-know-ya missions, and then as their seasons begin, we're still left wondering, "Who is this person?"
How can we know someone so well and so little all at once? How can we eat the dessert before sampling an appetizer?
No doubt, new Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian has enjoyed a sweet first eight months on the job. He's done plenty right. He's made a few mistakes, but whatever, he hasn't lost a game yet. He's provided the program with the energy and buzz that it needed. And yet, despite all the good vibes we have about him, he really hasn't done anything.
It's not his fault. It's just the way the football calendar works. Still, with preseason camp set to begin Monday, we're getting closer to seeing how Sarkisian handles himself under the pressure of a season. We're getting closer to truly knowing him.
On Friday, during the first news conference of his first season, the coach acknowledged the uncertainty several times, but he drowned it with his trademark optimism and enthusiasm.
"It's a really exciting time," Sark promised. "I hope everyone in the room is as excited as we are."
Curious might be a better word.
Like any good offensive whiz, Sarkisian is far from predictable. Interestingly, the hyperbole that had defined his opening months was gone. He didn't call his coaching staff the best in America or the best in Washington history, as he has at other public events. He didn't say "awesome" or even look at the Huskies' future through Rose Bowl-colored glasses.
Sark was, well, humble. Those who know him well had told us of his modesty, but it's often been obstructed by his desire to convince the community that the Huskies will return to glory under his watch.
In a few demure moments Friday, Sarkisian turned real. He's always been likable and entertaining, but it sometimes felt like he was talking not to you but through you, like he was trying to penetrate your brain. Maybe that's what it takes to combat the negative perception of inheriting an 0-12 team. Maybe some loud and brash talk is necessary. However, it was encouraging to see the other side of him.
When asked why he's the right man to push Jake Locker to greatness, Sarkisian laughed and said shyly, "I don't know that I'm the right guy. There are a lot of great coaches out there."
Considering the incredible quarterbacks Sarkisian groomed at USC, he could've easily turned that question into a self-praise-a-thon.
Earlier, when asked about how certain pieces on the team will fit, he admitted, "As much as I want to say I know this football team, I've only been on the field with them 15 times [in the spring], 15 practices."
Don't mistake his words as an attempt to lower expectations. Sarkisian also reiterated that he doesn't expect this rebuilding process to be a long one, but he declined to commit to a time frame.
The point is that, after eight months of introducing himself and learning this community, Sarkisian is comfortable being himself now. He's OK with dreaming big and being self-deprecating. He walked into this news conference with his wife, Stephanie, and later he credited her with handling the unnerving process of finding a home. After living in a hotel for four months and traveling back and forth from Los Angeles, the Sarkisians settled on a place in Yarrow Point. They like the neighborhood. Lots of kids, lot of young families like them. Now he feels comfortable.
"It's normal for us now," Sark said. "It's just relaxing, even though the job is never relaxing."
Sarkisian has received advice from the likes of Don James, Pete Carroll and LaVell Edwards, his old Brigham Young coach. The general theme: Enjoy this process.
"They all told me to enjoy watching change," Sarkisian said. "Change is inevitable. You never stay status quo. So as we're transitioning, make it enjoyable, and remember that it's not all going to be perfect."
He's applying their advice. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt says he's been impressed with how his friend has handled the new job. Sark is still Sark, only he's the boss now. And in eight months, he's shown the ability to learn quickly.
"The Huskies before us, they built this place," Sarkisian said. "We're just living in the house."
If he can turn his perspective into victories, Sark could be one outstanding tenant.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer
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Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
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