Being an interim head coach of a football team is a thankless job. It usually happens in the middle of a season and leaves hundreds of players, coaches and staff members searching for a direction. It’s not an easy position to be in... Especially for Jake Dickert.
The former WSU defensive coordinator is stepping into an unenviable position for a football coach. He’s taking over for a team that isn’t just down a head coach, after Nick Rolovich’s firing earlier this week, it’s a team that’s also down four assistant coaches and has a locker room filled with players who, by many accounts, wanted to fight for their departed head man.
“I’m a firm believer that adversity is life’s greatest teacher,” Dickert told the media on Tuesday when he held his first press conference as head coach. “This is going to be another challenge for our guys to continue to learn and grow.”
Dickert took to the podium on Tuesday afternoon flanked by President Kirk Schulz and AD Pat Chun to talk about the change and what’s ahead. The trio touched on the upcoming BYU game this weekend but, in the end, the overarching message was about unity, both in the locker room and across the Cougar fan base.
“I know some times people are mad, but if you’re mad I hope that you’re so mad you’re willing to help and support our players,” Dickert said. “And if you think today is a day for celebration, I hope that you’re willing to show up on Saturday and celebrate for our guys. Let’s come together, because I think that they deserve this.”
“The last 24 hours have been challenging for many associated with WSU,” said President Schulz. “I’ve received lots of emails about our transition and whether or not people like it or don’t like it. But today, I’m asking everyone to rally around these student-athletes, rally around our football team. If you saw any of the messages coming from the players just over the last little bit, they’ve all had the same unifying theme at the end. We want your support, we want people in the stadium, we want people cheering us on and I think that’s really important.”
There was a major push to get people into Martin Stadium this Saturday for the matchup with BYU. But that upcoming game brought up another major question: How will the coaching staff operate after losing five coaches on short notice? It all comes down to letting the players do what they do best.
“From an X’s and O’s standpoint, we’re going to give our guys an opportunity to do what they do best,” Dickert said. “Offensively, I think we’re one of the most explosive offenses out there and they’re playing with good confidence. Defensively, I think our staple is playing hard, playing fast and playing together. I think those are the principles that we’ll rely on come Saturday.”
Dickert was asked about possible additions to his staff... But it sounds like any hires could still be a couple of days out. Dickert says he’s hoping to have a couple of people in place by gameday.
“We’re not there yet. We’re very close. We’ve got a couple of people going through some processes and we’re still vetting a couple of guys. There are also some people that I think have earned a lot of trust and belief through their actions within the program.”
In the meantime, Dickert will still continue to call the defense while Brian Smith will continue to lead the offense and, while Dickert will have some input on that side of the ball, he doesn’t see much changing at all.
The Cougs know this is going to be an interesting time for the players and coaches. Chun started the press conference thanking every coach remaining on the staff, along with their families, for the the sacrifice they’re taking for the team. At the end of the day, it’s time to move on and step up on a short week.
“I believe that when you go into situations like this, let’s not try and be cute,” Dickert added.” Let’s do what these guys know, let’s do what they understand, let’s let them play fast. They’ve been blessed with a lot of God-given ability and I think our guys can go out there and play fast if we ask them to do the things that we’ve been doing... We’re going to do what we do and try to do it better than BYU does it.”
Dickert wants his players to fight for each other and develop a sense of team and he and his coaches are there to support them no matter what. While no one knows what his tenure will look like, Dickert says that he has one goal he wants to accomplish during his time at the helm.
“My number one job today and going forward is that our young people have fear, doubt and uncertainty in their minds and my job is to replace that with faith, trust and belief,” Dickert added. “I think those three words are the cornerstones of any program, any real culture.”
'Let's do what these guys know.' Washington State interim coach Jake Dickert strives to keep Cougars united, consistent | The Spokesman-Review
PULLMAN – Thrust at midseason into the first head-coaching role of his career, Jake Dickert is “going to stick to the plan.”
John Blanchette: Jake Dickert did what was necessary, and now will have much to do as WSU's acting head coach | The Spokesman-Review
Seventeen hours into his new gig at Washington State, and Jake Dickert seemed to know that there was one thing for which he didn't have time.
First look: In Jake Dickert's debut as interim coach, Washington State hosts BYU with three-game win streak on the line | The Spokesman-Review
What is it? The Washington State Cougars (4-3), riding a three-game winning streak but coming off a disconcerting week that saw coach Nick Rolovich lose his job, plays their first game under interim boss Jake Dickert when they host a slumping opponent in the BYU Cougars (4-2).
Washington State Cougars acting HC Jake Dickert says focus is delivering 'faith, trust and belief' to players
"My No. 1 job today and going forward is that our young people have fear, doubt and uncertainty in their minds and my job is to replace that with faith, trust and belief," Dickert said during his introductory news conference. "I think those three words are the cornerstones of any program, any real culture."
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Our list of eight names includes WSU acting coach Jake Dickert and former WSU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who's on staff at Oklahoma.
Covid News: Washington State Fires Football Coach for Refusing to Get Vaccinated - The New York Times
Mr. Rolovich, the state’s highest-paid employee, applied for a religious exemption this month from the mandate, among the strictest in the country. The status of the exemption request was unclear when the firings occurred.
Washington State Set to Host BYU Saturday at Gesa Field - Washington State University Athletics
Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.