New Boise State coach the one 'who wants this the most'

Bryan Harsin’s program ties, passion for the job made him the choice for BSU’s next head coach.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comDecember 14, 2013 

  • Bryan Harsin file

    • Age: 37

    • Hometown: Boise

    • Playing career: Quarterback at Capital High and Boise State (1995-99)

    • Coaching career: Eastern Oregon running backs/receivers coach (2000), Boise State offensive graduate assistant (2001), Boise State tight ends coach (2002-05), Boise State offensive coordinator (2006-10), Texas co-offensive coordinator (2011-12), Arkansas State head coach (2013, 7-5)

    • Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management, Boise State (2000)

    • Family: Wife, Kes; children Devyn, 13, Dayn, 11; Davis, 7

— Kes Harsin was at a doctor’s office with one of her three children at 5 p.m. Tuesday when her husband called. “I need to talk to you,” Bryan Harsin told her.

“It’s OK if you didn’t get it … ” she started.

Then he played a Diddy and Skylar Grey song into the phone.

I’m coming home. I’m coming home. Tell the world, I’m coming home.

“I just started crying,” Kes said.

Harsin, who was born in Boise, played quarterback at Capital High and Boise State and spent 10 years on the Broncos’ coaching staff, was selected to become the 11th head coach in school history.

And to tell his wife, the offensive mastermind who helped the Broncos win 61-of-66 games from 2006 to 2010 designed another winning play.

“I could hear her say, ‘What? What?’ ” Harsin said. “It made it a little bit more dramatic.”

Harsin, 37, was introduced Friday morning at the Allen Noble Hall of Fame — almost exactly a week after Washington announced it hired Chris Petersen, Harsin’s predecessor and mentor. Harsin greeted the first reports of Petersen’s departure with skepticism. When he knew it was real, his brain flipped in “a millisecond” to his own future.

His dream job was open. He left Boise State to prepare for this job — but never did he imagine that after two years as the co-offensive coordinator at Texas and just one year as the head coach at Arkansas State, that time would arrive.

“Probably the biggest thing was I didn’t stop thinking about it right after that happened,” Harsin said.

Harsin and his new bosses made a point Friday to say he didn’t get the job because he’s a hometown boy or because he has deeper ties to the program than any other candidate.

But in a way, that’s exactly why he got the job.

“It was about who wants this the most and who can do the best job,” Boise State President Bob Kustra said. “It was so obvious with Bryan. Of anybody who expressed an interest in this job, nobody comes close to expressing the interest he did in it. He was so obviously passionate about this opportunity.”

Harsin took a reduced contract — five years, $6.5 million with a $2 million buyout — to help Boise State afford his $1.75 million buyout from Arkansas State. He also traveled from Jonesboro, Ark., to Boise on Sunday night, arrived after midnight and began his interview at Coyle’s house before 7 a.m. Monday.

Harsin hoped to leave with “a handshake and a job,” and, when he didn’t, fretted to Kes that perhaps he’d blown the interview.

“He is so critical,” Kes said. “If it’s a perfect game, to him, he’ll find something. I knew he’d do great. I said, ‘They’ll know. They’ll feel your spirit. They’re going to know you’re the right guy.’ ”

Harsin brings to Boise State exactly what even Petersen said the Broncos needed — new ideas and new energy.

The target will remain exactly the same: “Our goal is to win the MWC Championship and a Bowl Game with Class, Integrity and Academic Excellence” is posted in the team rooms at Boise State and, with a different conference name, at Arkansas State.

Harsin tried to tweak the wording at Arkansas State. He considered starting anew.

“At the end of the day, it’s what I firmly believe,” he said. “It’s been a part of my life. … Why would that change? It says everything in there.”

The process could be much different.

Harsin must rebuild the coaching staff — at least four of the nine full-time assistants have accepted jobs at Washington, and the list is likely to grow. And while he and Petersen share an offensive philosophy, they have some different ideas.

Harsin was involved in coaching the quarterbacks and installing offensive game plans at Arkansas State; Petersen left the offense almost entirely to his staff. Harsin called the plays for the first half of the season before he decided he needed to spread himself around more, a decision that coincided with the Red Wolves’ four-game winning streak that allowed them to finish 7-5 and win a share of the Sun Belt championship.

It’s unclear what Harsin’s Boise State offense will look like, but he said it will be rooted in the offense he ran during his tenure as coordinator.

Harsin’s Arkansas State offense was similar to the new one Boise State installed in 2013. The coaching staffs even met last winter to trade ideas.

“The core of what we’ve done and developed here has not been lost,” Harsin said. “This program has been known for toughness, preparation, discipline, fundamentally sound football and creativity — and that’s not going to change under my watch in all those phases. Our style is our style, and it’s a Boise thing, and I’m looking forward to implementing that and getting involved back in that again.”

He left after the 2010 season for Texas believing he needed to expand his horizons to become a head coach. He had spent his entire college football career at Boise State except for one year coaching running backs and receivers at Eastern Oregon.

After he took the Texas job, he placed a call to Kustra.

Kustra, who remembers he was out walking his dog when the phone rang, didn’t recognize the number. Petersen usually was the only football coach who ever called him.

“I just want to tell you that I’m not leaving because I don’t love this program,” Harsin told Kustra. “I’m leaving for the experience and education I can get working with (coach) Mack Brown and the Longhorns, and if there is ever an opening when Pete leaves, I’d really like to come back.”

“I filed that away,” Kustra said.

It was a moment of foresight from a coach known for his preparation and organization, tools he acquired as a Bronco. Tools he will teach to the next wave of Broncos.

“This program personally has changed my life,” Harsin said. “It’s made me who I am today. … All I want to do is get back here and try to do for this program what it’s done for me.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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