Gregory gives Boise State sense of stability

The interim head coach’s future with Broncos is uncertain.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comDecember 23, 2013 

Bob Gregory ran his first practice as interim head coach Dec. 7.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com

HONOLULU — Boise State linebackers coach Bob Gregory is a picture of calm — just the image Athletic Director Mark Coyle sought to lead the Broncos football team through an unsettling month.

Gregory was named the Broncos’ interim head coach Dec. 6, the same day coach Chris Petersen accepted a job at Washington.

Petersen left immediately — a mutual decision — and told the Idaho Statesman his absence would make it easier for the team to focus on beating Oregon State on Tuesday in the Hawaii Bowl.

Gregory was charged with creating that focus.

“He’s got an incredible background, and I’ve always been impressed with Bob, how he carries himself,” Coyle said. “When we had the transition take place, one of my first thoughts was to try to get some stability, to try to make sure the kids understand that everything is going to be OK. It’s a shock to everybody. And Bob has done a phenomenal job.”

Gregory, 50, is in his fourth season as a linebackers coach with the Broncos. He spent the previous eight seasons as the defensive coordinator at California and the 2001 season as the coordinator at Boise State.

He also helped Dan Hawkins build an NAIA juggernaut at Willamette as the defensive coordinator from 1992 to 1997 before moving to Oregon as the defensive backs coach (1998 to 2000).

This will be his first game as a head coach.

“I’ve enjoyed it; it’s been great,” Gregory said. “Being able to lead the team, represent the team, is different. Every decision goes through you.”

Gregory has not gotten bogged down by the administrative side of the job — Coyle and Senior Associate Athletic Director Curt Apsey have handled that — but the job is more than his standard answer that he “just blows the whistle when we change drills.”

Gregory has guided the program through a month unlike any other in its history — even before he sent senior quarterback Joe Southwick home for a team-rules violation Friday. When Hawkins left for Colorado in 2005 and Dirk Koetter for Arizona State in 2000, they stayed on through the bowl games (Koetter won, Hawkins lost).

Petersen and running backs coach Keith Bhonapha exited immediately for Seattle, leaving Gregory to lead an eight-man coaching staff — two short of the NCAA maximum.

His message to the team:

“It’s all about finishing and doing it right and finishing what we started, regardless of who the head coach is. You guys are great guys, you’re great kids, you’re good football players, just make sure you finish it and do it right.”

Interim coaches have become commonplace during the bowl season because schools in need of coaches want to make hires before the December recruiting window closes.

The results are mixed.

Last year, interims went 4-4.

You can see inspired efforts, like the one USC delivered for Clay Helton on Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl, and also duds.

Gregory has tried to maintain normalcy.

“I’ve just leaned on the guys here,” he said. “(Offensive line coach) Chris Strausser is awesome. I’ve really leaned on that guy. Our two coordinators, Robert Prince (on offense) and Pete Kwiatkowski (on defense) have been great. And obviously, all of us have had a great mentor in Chris Petersen, so we’ve paid close attention to what he’s done.

“… We are just following the process that we would have normally followed if Coach Pete was here or not. We had these calendars mapped out for a long time.”

Gregory hasn’t changed his role in game planning — he helps with the defensive plan, but says it would be “very awkward” if he stuck his nose in the offense — but he will have to make game-management decisions like when to kick and when to go for it on fourth down.

He interviewed for the permanent job — former Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin was hired — and has interest in moving up to a top job eventually.

“I would have no problem being a head coach,” he said. “I have no problem being a linebackers coach. I’m good with either. … If the right opportunity is down the road, awesome.”

Gregory won’t say what he’ll be doing next year. He said last week that he hadn’t discussed a job with Harsin, a hint that he likely will land at Washington.

Only two of the eight bowl coaches have been announced as members of Harsin’s staff — tight ends/special teams coach Scott Huff and defensive line coach Andy Avalos. Huff will move to the offensive line, and Avalos could move to linebackers.

That means it’s possible every player on the team will play his last game with his current position coach.

“They’re going to make sure they coach the best out of us,” sophomore tailback Jay Ajayi said. “We’re going to enjoy our time together that we have. Nothing is for certain. We’re just all enjoying our practices, just having a lot of fun out there, enjoying spending time with these coaches — even if it’s for the last time.”

That’s the attitude Gregory wants to see.

“All of us are in the moment right now,” he said. “If we’re back next year or not back next year, we’re just going to enjoy being with these kids.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service