As snow and ice covered Texas during a historic winter storm in February, Steve Sarkisian’s new coaching staff stayed put in one large house — “Big Brother” style.
They didn’t flee to the house for shelter. Rather, the storm interrupted their retreat. Sarkisian, who became UT’s head football coach in January, says such getaways are crucial to developing a bond between staff members, especially during the transition stage when everyone is acclimating to new people and a new place.
Three coaches — Jeff Banks, Kyle Flood and AJ Milwee — came with Sarkisian to Austin after serving with him on Alabama’s coaching staff. Stan Drayton and Andre Coleman were with the program last season. Other coaches, such as UT alumnus Blake Gideon, are from around the state or country. Sarkisian says his staff became close-knit living together in the house.
“I would highly recommend to anybody that does build a staff … putting your staff in the same house,” Sarkisian says. “They’re eating breakfast together. They’re commuting to work together. They’re eating dinner together.”
A self-described hugger, Sarkisian took this more human approach to hiring his staff as well. He didn’t interview any of the candidates in a traditional sense. Instead — after watching film of teams they had coached to determine their football IQ — he just had conversations with them.
He made a few jokes to see whether they would joke back. He wanted to see whether they shared any common ground or connections. The organization he runs is relationship-based, so, in a casual sense, he tested potential hires to see whether they would fit in with team culture.
“I don’t want the interview version of them because generally the interview version of them is a front,” Sarkisian says. “I want the real them.”
About three months after Texas hired Sarkisian, UT welcomed Chris Beard from Texas Tech back to his alma mater to take over as the Longhorns’ new men’s basketball head coach. Much like Sarkisian’s football program, Beard’s program is built around people and how well they interact with one another.
That’s why Beard says he leads through relationships and ensures that staff members allow for bonds to manifest between them and players on and off the court.
“I don’t think the objective of building a staff is just to put the most talented people in the room together,” Beard says. “I think it’s to put the most talented people that fit together.”