When Arizona State fired Dennis Erickson after the 2011 season, he had been a head coach in college football and the NFL for 30 years. He was 64 years old, and for most of his adult life, Erickson had lived in fishbowls of varying sizes. He had answered questions from reporters. He had answered the phone in the middle of the night and heard which player had gotten in trouble. He had sold his program, sold his vision, chased recruits, chased free agents, moved to another fishbowl, and started over.
And now he was done. Erickson sat out a year. He had the time and the money to chase a golf ball, or crack open a beer and stare at his beloved Lake Coeur d'Alene. Instead, he thought about what he would run on offense if he got another chance. Erickson didn't need to coach for money. He didn't need to coach for the attention. He just needed to coach.
"I wanted to do what I do," Erickson said. "I just had that deal inside of me -- I just wanted to be around coaches and players. That's what it's all about. That's why you coach, period. I missed that aspect of it."
When the head of General Motors steps aside, he doesn't shrug out of his golden parachute and take a job selling Buicks. But there Erickson is, an assistant coach at Utah, where he is co-offensive coordinator with Brian Johnson.
"I'm not on any ego trip," Erickson said. "I've been there and done that on that one."
The only guy who may be happier than Erickson is Tom O'Brien. After spending the last 16 years as head coach at Boston College and North Carolina State, O'Brien, 65, is coaching tight ends at Virginia.
"Four," O'Brien said. "I coach four guys."