I had to stop and think about this hire for a while — having hoped for a rocket-shot coach like Jon Gruden, or Chip Kelly. Hoke’s won-loss ratio gave me alot of pause.
But I watched Brady Hoke’s first press conference, and the man has genius. You cannot help but like him, just to hear him speak. He is a very compelling character, with a palpable, intense combination of genius, integrity and humor. Hoke’s no preacher, but he’s clearly decided he cares about what he sees in his rear view mirror.
This hire is a major step forward for Michigan. As has been previously stated here, Michigan is known for athletic and academic excellence, and those who love Michigan know that we have been blessed — until three years ago — with Head Coaches of great character. Until Rodriguez — he of the wraparound cool, sunglasses, looking like a prison guard out of Cool Hand Luke. Rich Rod was – at a glance – a corner-cutter, all angles, pursed-lipped and seething. He lost huge credibility with his staff, and people all over Ann Arbor, with his preposterous lies to the NCAA.
But first things first: Brady Hoke may have the best coaching name in all of college sports. Brady. Hoke. Bear. Bryant. Fielding. Yost. “Urban Meyer” is interesting, the way a block of ice is. “Bobby Bowden” is pretty good — but not as good as Brady… Hoke. There is no name like it. Savor it. It even calls to mind the name of a racehorse — maybe a Kentucky Derby winner from the early 30’s? And Hoke even looks and acts like a racing guy, a walker or trainer you’d see around the barns, relentlessly devoted to his horses. Brady Hoke. And the name suits the man.
Then there’s the way he looks. Quick look from one angle, and it’s a heavy Karl Malden. Then from a different angle, Buddy Hackett, that old comedian from the Johnny Carson show — and Brady has the same self-effacing, slightly unhinged rapid-fire, sometimes high-pitched delivery Hackett had (though Hoke seems to keep the hinges on the door; Hackett commonly blew off both of them.) From another angle, he has the gut-over-belly look of a character-actor movie sidekick. (Unless Judy gets him on a diet soon, he’s going to need the next-biggest collar size pretty quick.)
But here’s why I’m won over: it’s obvious that he has a huge impact on the people around him, which is the result of two things: respect, and affection. By all accounts, he will not lie, and will also be honest when it hurts. He brings back integrity to Michigan, which had been the No. 1 asset until Rich Rod came around. So — for making this hire — let’s congratulate Dave Brandon. The process was unwieldy, and the delay may not have been just unnecessary but also a big self-inflicted wound from which Hoke and his staff may have some difficulty recovering; but it is a good hire, and Brandon deserves strong praise.
Let’s pull out that Oglala Sioux incantation now, as a blessing and a thanks: Hoka Hey, Coach Hoke!