Charlie Strong explains his decision to stay at Louisville
Posted by: Josh Kendall on December 6, 2012
Five years ago, Louisville coach Charlie Strong never could have imagined he would turn down the Tennessee head coaching job.
"No, I would not have imagined it," Strong said Thursday morning during a news conference to announce he was doing just that. "But I could never imagine I would have a great job like I have now also."
Strong was offered the Tennessee job on Tuesday and thought long and hard about it on Wednesday, he said. He started his day by sneaking past TV trucks waiting for news on his decision and taking a run, he said. After that, he turned off his phone and talked with his family about the pros and cons of his options.
In the end, the decision came down to the loyalty shown to him by Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich and the Cardinals community, he said.
"We were 2-4 (last year), and I was 9-10 at the time (overall), and the guy hands me an extension," Strong said. "I am like, 'How do you walk away from someone who really trusts and believes in you?' It's about relationship and people believing in you and trusting in you.
"As I talked to my family, it became crystal clear to me that I needed to stay at the University of Louisville," Strong said.
Tennessee first approached Strong on Friday through a phone call the day after his team rallied to beat Rutgers. He met with a Tennessee official on Monday and received an official offer on Tuesday. The lure of coaching in the SEC was very, very strong, he said.
"You say, 'I can go beat this team, I can go beat this team,'" he said. "You let your ego get in the way, but you realize it's about people and how you affect their lives. Leading to me is not about telling people what to do. It's about serving others. When I thought about leaving, I kept going back to we haven't finished the job yet. We are still growing together. We have a lot of work to do."
Strong informed his players of his decision late Wednesday.
"I said, 'When we talk to you we always talk about trust, and we talk about being committed," he said. "A lot of you guys grew up without a father figure and a lot of people walked out of your life. Now you are looking at me and saying, 'Coach, you might do the same thing.' I couldn't do that to them."
Strong and Jurich have spoken about a new contract for him at Louisville but not in detail, he said.
"I want to make sure my assistant coaches are taken care of," he said. "I am fine."
Strong hopes his commitment to the program will convince more people in the community to back the Cardinals, who will play in the Sugar Bowl next month.
"I guarantee you probably 80 percent of the community thought we were walking out of here," he said. "I wanted the community to understand that we have an outstanding program here so now let's start backing this program. We are just scratching the surface."
Strong, who is nearing the end of his third year, said he hopes not to have to deal with this kind of situation every year.
"I just hate what I put our players through," he said. "I did not want much attention on myself."
Josh Kendall is a staff writer for CoachingSearch.com and has covered the SEC for more than 15 years for papers such as the Athens Banner-Herald, Macon Telegraph, and The State. He’s the father of two boys who he’s hoping don’t inherit his wide receiver frame and offensive guard feet. Follow @EyeOnCoaches on twitter and send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org