A coaching tree has many branches, and you never know when or where one might sprout. I was reminded of this again when in early December Tulane hired Chip Long to be its new offensive coordinator.
I brought Chip in as a graduate assistant back in 2006, when I was the head coach at Louisville. As he would later tell it, he sent out his resume to “just about every Division I school” his senior year at North Alabama. We were the only ones to get back to him, and after interviewing Chip decided to hire him. In fact, he skipped his college graduation so he could get started.
Happily, he recalled that year as “a good way to be indoctrinated into the profession,” and that he learned about our offensive concepts from not only myself but my brother Paul (now the head coach at Idaho) and fellow assistants Mike Summers (now the offensive line coach at Florida) and Jeff Brohm (now the head man at Purdue).
I also had Chip as a graduate assistant at Arkansas in 2008-09, and after that he served as an assistant at Illinois (2010-11), Arizona State (2012-15) and Memphis (2016) before Notre Dame hired him as its offensive coordinator in 2017. He was there for three years, and in 2018 was a finalist for the Frank Broyles, given to the nation’s top assistant, while helping the Fighting Irish advance to the College Football Playoff.
He served as an offensive analyst at Tennessee in 2019.
Now Chip will work under head coach Willie Fritz. He replaces Will Hall, his college roommate and teammate, as Will was just hired to be the head man at Southern Mississippi.
Chip told NOLA.com that his offensive philosophy is similar to that of Hall, in that he prefers to run “an NFL offense that goes fast.”
“We want to showcase all the playmakers we have,” he added, “and get them the ball.”
At a time like this I can’t help but think about my own coaching odyssey, and the various influences I’ve had during my 36 years in the profession. Start with my dad, Bob Sr., under whom I played and served as graduate assistant (and later offensive coordinator) at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. Then think about Mike Price at Weber State, John L. Smith at Idaho, Bruce Snyder at Arizona State, Chris Ault at Nevada, John L. (again) at Utah State and Louisville, Tom Coughlin with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and Tommy Tuberville at Auburn.
I learned different things from each of them. Self-motivation and maximizing a team’s performance from Dad. Player relations from John L. The running game from Bruce. The passing game from Mike. Motivational techniques from Chris. And overall program operations from Tom.
I value each and every one of those lessons, and I can only hope that all the coaches with whom I’ve worked feel the same way about what we shared with them — that like Chip, we gave them something to build on.