Brian Kelly: This job tends to distract you from your purpose

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday December 18, 2012

Posted by: Chris Vannini on December 18, 2012

Brian Kelly briefly worked in politics before beginning his coaching career .

If the head coach of the 12-0 Fighting Irish ran for mayor of South Bend, he'd probably win. At his weekly press conference, Kelly was asked how that background may have helped him at Notre Dame.

"I was driving up to a location just north and at a muffler place they said, 'Long live Brian Kelly,'" he said. "So I think I got one vote from the guy from the muffler place. Pretty good there. I don't think in those terms as much as I think my experience in politics gave me an opportunity to work with the media and know that you guys are normal people.

"I know people don't think that way, but you're pretty normal, for the most part.  You've got jobs to do. I think it just allowed me to understand the job that the media has to do when I was working in politics.  I think it prepared me for that more than anything else."

The head coaching job at Notre Dame is different than most, and that took some time for Kelly to understand, as he explained. This past offseason, the return of Urban Meyer brought to the forefront the issue of coaches spending too much time on the job or not valuing the success. Kelly made a point to appreciate it.

"Well, I had 19 years of head coaching experience when I got here. I thought that would prepare me," he said. "I think it did in a lot of areas, but not in all the areas necessary to be the head coach at Notre Dame. I think the job tends to distract you. There are a lot of things that pull you away from the primary reason why you want to be head coach of Notre Dame, and that is graduate your players and play for a National Championship.

"Now, to do that you have to have the pulse of your football team and you've got to have relationships with your players.  If you're already going around the country doing other things other than working with your football team, it's hard to have the pulse of your team.  So I made it a point that I was going to spend more time with our team this year.  That's why I got into this.

"I want to develop 18- to 21-year-olds.  My development as the head coach at Notre Dame this year has been about getting back to why you would want to coach college players. You want to learn about them; you want to know their strengths and weaknesses; you want to help them with leadership skills; you want to help them when they're not feeling confident in their ability.

"For me, that is why it's been the most enjoyable year as the head coach at Notre Dame, is that I got a chance to spend more time with my team."



Chris Vannini is the lead writer for and has covered Michigan State sports for The State News, The Oakland Press and He writes a weekly column for the Detroit Free Press on behalf of SB Nation. Vannini lives in Big Ten country, so his foot speed is far from SEC caliber, but his pulse on coaches is hard to match. Be sure to follow @CoachingBuzz on twitter and send your feedback to

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to

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