Former Kansas coach Mark Mangino hadn't spoken publicly about his dismissal in the 17 months since it occurred. Finally, he granted a lengthy, wide-ranging interview to the New Castle (PA) News back in his hometown.
On not speaking out:
"Our doorbell kept ringing with people wanting to interview me ... But Mary Jane and I had decided that the right thing to do was to just walk away with our heads held high and not burn any bridges. I learned long ago that you’re never going to win trying to defend yourself."
He's probably right about that. It was the right approach for Mangino, who was replaced by Turner Gill from Buffalo. Everything snowballed pretty badly on him at the end. The intense approach with players flies much more smoothly when coaches' teams are winning BCS games. When it loses seven games to end a season, people get much less tolerant, and stories like the one from the Kansas parking attendant can do a lot of damage. If that had surfaced during the 2007 season, it wouldn't have been nearly as serious of an issue. I'm not excusing it, but that's how the world works.
On the infamous Raimond Pendleton YouTube video (Which I can't link to for obvious reasons. Google is your friend.)
That should never even have been an issue. The conversation was between me and the player. It is an unwritten rule in college football that video is fair game in the coaches’ box, but audio is absolutely off limits.
An ambitious young TV reporter from Topeka trying to make a name for himself stood in the end zone and put the audio on the coaches’ box, without the knowledge of me or our university. He caught heck from our sports information department, but by then it already was out there.
Mangino's dead on with this one. No one cares about those unwritten rules once it's on YouTube, but people wanted to act like Mangino was the first coach to ever rip into a player with colorful language before. (Pendleton, by the way, deserved at least some scolding. I'll leave it to you to decide if Mangino went too far.)
The situation reminds me a bit of the controversial Tony Jerod-Eddie/Ben Cotton situation in the Nebraska-Texas A&M game last year. It was an ugly incident, yes, but people unfamiliar with the game of football wanted to demonize Jerod-Eddie, as if he was some sort of deviant, the first person to ever do what he did underneath a pile. Why? Because cameras caught it. It's not a perfect example, considering Eddie's incident was on the national TV broadcast, but you get the point. It doesn't make it OK, but people overreacted to both situations.
On Arist Wright's allegation that Mangino poked him in the chest during practice:
"I was pretty much blindsided. I honestly didn’t know what was going on."
Worth noting that while Wright and other players spoke out against Mangino, others inside the program violated Mangino's gag order on the issues to speak out in support of their coach. Some coaches coach the way Mangino does. Some don't. Some players respond to that kind of coaching. Some don't.
But any time a coach touches a player aggressively, public forum or not, it's going to be brought up, though it rarely results in anybody losing a job over it. I seem to remember a high-profile coach poking a high-profile player in a high-profile game this year and after a brief controversy, it pretty much went away.
Mangino's house in Lawrence remains unsold, but he's definitely looking to get back into coaching. Earlier this spring, Mangino was spotted at Oklahoma's spring practice with his former boss, Bob Stoops, but he told the paper he's still focused on finding a head-coaching job, rather than an assistant job.
On where he wants to work in the future:
"I do have some criteria that would need to be met before I would get back into the game. I want to be in a football environment — in other words, I would only go to a place where football has a high level of importance. I don’t want to go someplace where football is an afterthought or a hobby, that just would not work for me.
He's laying it on pretty thick there. Kansas is easily the Big 12's biggest basketball school, and despite the football team's success, it never quite got the attention from the fan base it probably deserved. That has to get frustrating after a while.
Mangino's agreement to leave limits him from commenting on the specifics of the situation.
"When I look back on my time at Kansas, I want to remember the positive, not dwell on the negative," he told the paper. "I’m very proud of my time there."
And he should be. Despite the ugly end, there's no denying that winning a BCS bowl at Kansas is a huge accomplishment, something nobody at Kansas had been able to do for nearly four decades before Mangino.