A couple of months ago I was hired by a major university to vet several candidates for their soon to be open head football coaching position. I went through the normal channels, talking with a number of players, coaches and others who had worked or played with them and against them. It didn’t take long for a few of the candidates to emerge from the rest of the field. Perhaps surprisingly to some of those reading this, the bigger names on the list all came out below several of the lesser known candidates. Not surprisingly, two of the coaches who came out at the top of my evaluation are now the head coaches at the University of Michigan and the University of Miami respectively.

When it came time to report to my client on what I had found, three names stood above the rest in my humble opinion. Two of the three only had one negative, which was that they were each said to aspire to eventually coach at a particular institution. This made them less attractive to me as the university I was working with did not want to risk getting stuck on the coaching carousel. This also made me realize that the other top candidate and number four and five on my list were better fits for their program.

Brady Hoke was at the top of my list and the only drawback I uncovered on him was that he longed to someday be the coach at the University of Michigan. Obviously that negative does not come into play when the University of Michigan is doing the hiring. Coaches and players lit up when I asked them about Hoke and I was repeatedly told how much people like to work with him and play for him. I also heard again and again that he is a fundamentals guy and hires well – this may be the most underrated facet of being a head coach and has led to downfall of plenty of otherwise good coaches. The one thing I kept hearing about him that will delight the fans of Michigan, was how good he is at instilling toughness in his players and teams.

Fans and many administrators are often enamored with big name coaches and 5-star recruits. But what’s most important is how the coach or player fits into their program. Rich Rodriguez was a big name coach but was never really a good fit at Michigan. We all know how that worked out for him and for Michigan. Bobby Knight is a good basketball coach and was a great fit at Indiana University, but I’m relatively certain he would have been a disaster at a program like Cal-Berkeley or UCLA.

Some coaches simply fit better at some places than others. Many schools and teams make the mistake of trying to hire the best coach available, rather than the best coach for them. Jim Harbaugh would have been a great hire for Michigan, but realistically how long would he have stayed there before bolting to the NFL? As much as I respect Jim Harbaugh as a coach, all things considered, I think Brady Hoke is the right man at the right time and ultimately a better choice for Michigan. In a few years I would not be surprised if most Michigan fans agree with me.

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