Monday, December 23, 2013

Winning the press conference not No. 1 goal for UConn's Manuel

Warde Manuel was thrilled to hear the reports from fans and alumni about how charged up they were after seeing the energetic Bob Diaco steal the show at the press conference announcing him as the new football coach at UConn. However, hiring somebody who is a dynamic presence at a press conference wasn't nearly as important to Manuel as getting an accomplished coach who can change the fortunes of the football program.

"It’s great to hear," Manuel said after Sunday's UConn women's basketball game against California at Madison Square Garden. "Our fans are really excited by him. I am glad that people are excited and able to see him, be excited about what he is going to try to do and accomplish here.

"Everybody said you knocked it out of the park by hiring him and the press conference. When you look at what he brings to the table, his experiences, his knowledge, the success that he had both as a player and as a coach, I am glad people liked the press conference but they will really like the level of excellence that the man will demand from the kids on a daily basis and hopefully the results will be there."

Manuel reacted to the news that offensive line/tight ends coach Mike Foley was the only assistant coach being retained by Diaco.

"I liked all of those guys," Manuel said. "Personally and professionally, it is the nature of where we are but it is also important for Bob to be able to determine his staff and be able to bring in the people he wants, the system that he wants to run. Mike Foley, he kept Mike and I think that is a great choice but the other guys would have been great as well but Bob has his sense of what he wants to do. He talked to all of the guys and talked to them about the things he wanted to talk about to assess things. He was up front with them when he talked to the staff and they all know that this is a business and it is a sad part of it but it is the process that has to take place."

With UConn ending the season on a three-game winning streak and so many of the playmakers in those three wins expected to come back, having a bright young coach in the fold and Yawin Smallwood already generating plenty of hype since declaring for the NFL draft, there's more positive energy surrounding the program at the current time than has been evident in the last couple of years and that is not lost on Manuel.

"Part of coming in and stepping into the head-coaching position, Bob saw that and many of the people I interviewed talked about that the team went into the last three games, the character of the kids on the team and those kinds of things, it was important," Manuel said. "When he met with the team, he told them so. He told them that he was watching knowing that the job was open and knowing that he’d interested. He was very proud of what they did and I echoed that of course because these kids never stopped working, they never stopped trying. We made mistakes and they were down on themselves for that but they never stopped working hard and they never stopped trying to give their best. The fans were behind them and it just worked out the way it did. We won those last three games and that was important for this team to do that and to go into the offseason knowing that we won the last three games and let’s keep up the effort in the workouts and see where we can be in our preparation for the next nine months."

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