Washington State officially introduced Jake Dickert as its 34th football head coach with the obligatory news conference on Thursday, and it looks like his staff is already starting to come together with reports that he has hired his defensive coordinator.
Football Scoop is reporting that Dickert has landed Nevada defensive coordinator Brian Ward, who was there for two years and previously held the same position at Syracuse, where he was fired after the 2019 season. The Wolf Pack were middle of the road in Mountain West defensive stats overall, but they were second in the conference in takeaways and first in sacks, which seems to jive with Dickert’s philosophy. Football Scoop also reported that Ward chose WSU over a job with Washington.
At the news conference, Dickert — previously WSU’s defensive coordinator — did not confirm the hiring, but he made it clear that he didn’t intend to hire a figurehead coordinator for that side of the ball.
“I think that’s one of my biggest visions I shared with Pat is that I believe Washington State needs a true head coach,” Dickert said. “You know, not a head coach that specializes in defense, not specializes in offense, but a true head coach: One that can pour into both sides of the ball. ... We will hire coordinators, I will empower leaders throughout our whole program, and I think these guys will be influential in our success.”
You’ll note he said coordinators — plural — and when asked specifically about the offense, he wouldn’t commit to the Run and Shoot.
“I think we’re going to look at everything,” Dickert said. “I think the biggest philosophy I have on offense is players over plays, and we’re going to center this around Jayden (de Laura) and his development and what he can do in the future. He’s just starting and he’s just blossoming into what he can become, and I think there’s a certain level of expectation that we all have of being an explosive offense here at Washington State, using our speed, our athleticism, but being uniquely different. So we’re going to look at all all avenues and and to make sure we’re finding the right fit for our future and our players.”
This prompted former WSU coach Jim Walden, who was in attendance (against all odds), to ask: “Any chance in hell we’re ever going to see another tight end at Washington State University?”
“Man, I thought you’re going to give me a softball to hit, coach,” Dickert said, to laughter. “Well, I appreciate it, coach — we’ll look at everything, we’ll talk about that, we’ll deal with that later.”
Athletics director Pat Chun said he was “able to talk with” sitting FBS coaches and P5 coordinators while evaluating Dickert for the job, interviewing the acting/interim head coach on three different occasions before deciding he was the right guy for the job
“This industry is very very unique, especially in the coaching side, all these searches are accelerated at, really, a breakneck pace,” Chun said. “I was fortunate that we had the time. We had this evaluation and we ended up in the place we needed to be at.”
Chun also seemed to heavily imply that something Dickert had going for him was that he was different from his predecessor, Nick Rolovich, who was fired in mid-October for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid.
“We needed to get back to the values that have served this program so well for decades,” Chun said. “We needed to get back to a program that is driven by its student-athletes. ...
“Coach Dickert has proven to be a servant leader and unifier. He has a powerful and vibrant vision for WSU football. He’s a dynamic coach, he’s committed to the total development of our student athletes, he’s committed to recruiting the best future student athletes at WSU. He shares the same values of Washington State University, and puts the welfare and needs of the team at the forefront of all of his all of his decisions.”
Both Chun and Dickert invoked the term “servant leadership” multiple times.
As for what won him over on Dickert, Chun said this: “We had the benefit of just watching him everyday and watching this football team and the most important thing in any type of organization is just simply leadership. What he was able to display — more importantly, what would emerge from the team — is really a byproduct of of what great culture is. Great culture can withstand anything, and we went through a lot, but what you saw was something emerged that many people outside of Washington State probably didn’t know, and that’s what these young men are made of. But our coaching staff knew, and they knew they could get it out.
“In those three meetings ... I had to figure out from Jake what is his vision, where can we go, what’s the plan, how committed is he to this, because there are things that there’s an opportunity here at Washington State unlike any other place. We believe in the strengths we have, we believe in all the great things going on here at Washington State. We always feel like if we can find the right coaches, I think we’ve proven that in recent history we can do anything here in the country.”
As is de rigueur for these sorts of events, there was a lot of glad-handing and congratulations, and also an effort to “win the press conference,” which Dickert tried to do in a number of different ways.
By professing his love for Pullman: “I’m extremely honored to carry on the rich tradition of Washington State and carry on the passion of Coug fans everywhere, and more importantly, I’m even more excited to find a home for our family and a place in Pullman that fits us so well and that we can be here for a long time.”
By promising to recruit in Washington, citing the advice of former WSU coach Mike Price (also in attendance): “That is where our program will be founded and that is where our program will start.”
By trying out a catchy turn of phrase: “Our vision for Washington State Football would be simple: We’re going to be building champions while we’re relentlessly competing for championships.”
By explaining the philosophy on which his program will be built: The “four pillars” of trust, discipline, love, and competition.
“We will have four pillars the first one is trust, and I challenge our young men to say that any real relationship they have in their life, trust is the foundation of every one of those, and trust demands a deeper level of commitment, and trust is built through action. They will need to trust me, they will need to trust our process, but more importantly, they’ll need to trust and believe in each other.
“The second is discipline — doing what has to be done, when it has to be done, as well as it can be done, and doing it that way all the time. And I’m just a firm believer that when you’re a disciplined team off the field, you will be a disciplined team on the field. ...
“The third element — and I learned this a long time ago — is love. Love to me is the intersection of commitment and sacrifice and I’ll teach our guys to love themselves, to love each other, and to love the process daily of what we all go through and challenge ourselves. The best part about love is that you’re willing to hold each other accountable to the higher standard daily, and they will understand that because I love them, I will challenge them every day to become the best versions of themselves as people and as players.
“The last thing is competition. I grew up in a family with two brothers and a sister. We competed in everything that we did, and our guys will learn to love, value, and respect competition. And I believe every moment in your life is an opportunity to be your best, and that’ll be in social settings, that’ll be in the classroom, that’ll be on the football field, and that’ll be in every relationship that we have. It will create an ‘earn everything’ mindset, and I believe that will shape our players and our people for the real world. So trust, discipline, love, and competition will be at the forefront of everything we do.”
You can watch the entire thing here, if you’re so inclined: