For better or worse, the term "players' coach" brings to my mind Pete Carroll roping Snoop Dogg to join USC practice, or coaches making pop culture references on Twitter and drawing cans of SWAG on recruiting letters. My father was a Michigan Man and in our household the only coaches worth a damn were curmudgeons, either wise like Bo Schembechler or stoic like Lloyd Carr. The Carroll-types were considered hucksters, putting on hip veneers to seem relevant for recruiting purposes. They weren't football coaches, or at least, not what football coaches should be.
Thanks to my conditioning, I naturally heard alarm bells when Gary Andersen was consistently mentioned as a players' coach when he was hired at Wisconsin. When I read that he called everyone single one of his former players to tell them he was leaving Utah State, however, I got a sense that Andersen might be a different breed. It's hard to tell exactly where Andersen lies on the SWAG-Lloyd Carr spectrum, but he certainly isn't hip.
Senior outside linebacker Brendan Kelly was walking through the football offices one day this spring when Andersen stopped him to offer an outside-the-box idea.
"I was walking down the hall and he said, ‘I was thinking of you the other night,' " Kelly said. "He started telling me about it.
"He was like, ‘What do you think about doing some yoga?' I was like, ‘Coach, let's do it.' It's good stuff."
Andersen lets music blare during practice, but it's just as likely that Starship comes out of the speakers as it is anything that anyone, anywhere might actually like. He also ended practice with a dance off, which is a step closer to SWAG but also necessary if you have any foreknowledge that Warren Herring is Michael Jackson reincarnate.
Andersen at times sounds like he is more Mr. Rogers than anything, calling players when he thinks of them to check up on their personal, academic and social lives. It's an interesting take on being a football coach, but one that feels like it is working because it comes from a genuine place. There are no veneers on Andersen. He's not pretending to be Carroll or Schembechler, and apparently it's working. Cue Dezmen Southward:
"Everyone said he's a players' coach and he definitely is, but he's not giving us anything we want," Southward said. "He sets a precedent and he wants greatness. He definitely pushes us real hard, but at the same time, he knows when to love us, too. And he shows us."
USA Today adds its take on "Andersen is a players' coach."
Congrats Ryan Evans on winning the 2013 Ashe Award, given to an athlete "best exemplifying the standards of scholarship, athleticism and humanitarianism."
More on Wisconsin's aggressive new defense, including multiple Dom Capers references.
Walk-on Joe Schobert is among the outside linebackers competing for playing time in David Gilbert's wake.
Jack Russell gets in some hot water for questionable Tweeting practices.