Turner Gill's Choice of Chuck Long to Lead Offense Is Tip of Hat to Mark Mangino

Denny K.Correspondent IDecember 17, 2009

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 1:  (L-R) Offensive coordinator Chuck Long, Head coach Bob Stoops, tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes and Associate head coach Mike Stoops of the University of Oklahoma Sooners pose for a photograph with the Rose Bowl trophy after defeating the Washington State University Cougars in the 89th Rose Bowl on January 1, 2003 in Pasadena, California.  Oklahoma defeated Washington 34-14. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Eyebrows were raised in Lawrence this week when it was announced that not a single assistant coach from Mark Mangino's staff would be retained.

Tuesday, all of Mangino's assistant coaches and strength staff were fired and told to pack up their belongings and leave their offices.

Turner Gill considered retaining Mangino's wide receivers coach, who had orchestrated Kansas’ improved recruiting efforts in Texas the past two seasons, for a day longer, but on Wednesday morning he was fired too.

Oftentimes in head coaching changes in college football, one or two of the best assistant coaches from the previous staff will be kept on to give the sense of positive continuity.

Gill knows this well—he was the only coach retained from the Frank Solich staff by Bill Callahan when he took over the reins in Lincoln. 

Nevertheless, Gill chose not to follow his own example at Kansas—even considering that Mangino's offensive staff guided the most successful offense in school history the last three years.

For all appearances, Gill is moving forward at Kansas with a clean break from Mark Mangino's program. Or not.

Gill's selection of Chuck Long as offensive coordinator is revealing. In many ways, it is a powerful testament to the success of the offensive system that Mangino brought to Kansas eight years ago.

Gill and Long never coached together and have no professional coaching connections. Long did quarterback Iowa from 1982 to 1985 when Gill quarterbacked Nebraska from 1981 to 1983, and they played once head to head in 1982, but other than that they share no past.

From 2000-2005, Long worked for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma as a quarterback coach and later as offensive coordinator. He helped tutor Jason White into becoming a Heisman-winning quarterback. While Long was a quarterback coach at Oklahoma, his other boss was offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who he successfully served under. The two men worked together for two seasons.

When Mangino left the Sooners to take over at Kansas in 2002, Long filled his shoes at the offensive coordinator position. 

Long had much the same success at Oklahoma as Mangino running a similar system. During Long's tenure the Sooners were 67-11 and won three Big 12 championships, six consecutive bowl games, and a national title.

For those of you who don't remember, Mangino and Long helped to earn Stoops his original nickname of "Big Game Bob," which at the time was intended as a compliment and not used sarcastically like it is today.

During the press conference that introduced Gill as Kansas' new head football coach, he said that little would change in the offense from when Mangino was leading the team. Gill may experiment with using a fullback, but other than that it will be a similar spread philosophy.

What seems to mark the real break from Mangino to Gill on the offensive side of the ball is Gill's implied insistence that Kansas would recruit better under his leadership. During his first press conference, Gill emphasized repeatedly that recruiting would be his staff's top priority at Kansas. By emphasizing this, I felt he was suggesting that he would be able to bring in better talent than Mangino. 

It is possible that Gill will do this, of course, which makes following his progress at Kansas all the more interesting. 

The key point to take away, at least on the offensive side of the ball, is that under Mangino, in Gill's opinion, the shortcomings were not system-related but had to do with the lack of top-notch offensive talent. Perhaps this is the best explanation for why none of Mangino's offensive staff was retained.

It certainly seems that Gill believes he has the right formula to consistently bring highly-ranked players to Kansas, and apparently his new coaching staff will better help him achieve that goal than any members of the old one could.