Duke coach Wilson learns there's no place to hide

October 19, 1990|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland football coach Joe Krivak never was disturbed while he was fishing.

But aside from this privacy, he knows that the world of a first-year head coach can be weird and unpredictable. Everyone wants a piece of the new guy. His days are filled with appearances -- television and radio, athletic fund-raisers, charitable events.

Then there are department and football staff meetings, as well as countless hours in film sessions and recruiting.

And, finally, practice and the game.

So, it's easy to see why Krivak, now in his fourth season at Maryland, sympathizes with Duke coach Barry Wilson, another longtime assistant (24 years), whose team (3-3 overall, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) is struggling in his first year at the top.

Wilson replaced Steve Spurrier, who left to take the head position at Florida. His Blue Devils will play Maryland (4-3, 2-2) at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C.

It was 3 1/2 years ago that Krivak, 55, was named head coach at Maryland, his first such college job after 18 years as an assistant at Syracuse, Navy and Maryland.

Wilson, 47, tried to relax a little this summer by taking a fishing trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. There was no telephone, but that didn't stop Duke athletic director Tom Butters from contacting Wilson.

He sent a messenger.

"It was really nothing, but something that had to be taken care of right then," said Wilson, who had been the assistant head coach at Duke before succeeding Spurrier. "As a head coach, your responsibilities multiply. You always feel like you're being pulled in a number of directions. You just can't seem to relax."

There are more similarities between the two coaches than just being longtime assistants. Both replaced highly successful coaches, both are strong disciplinarians and both were left with relatively few talented players in the program.

Before Spurrier came in 1987, Duke had not had a winning season since 1982. Spurrier, besides having two winning seasons, brought a wide-open, passing attack. The Blue Devils finished the 1989 season at 8-4 (tied for first in the ACC) and played in the All-American Bowl.

It was the school's first bowl appearance since the 1961 Cotton Bowl.

It was also a tough act to follow.

"I didn't want to be the Steve Spurrier clone, even though a lot of our philosophies were the same," said Wilson. "Steve is one of my best friends and we still talk a lot, but I had my own ideas. Any time you follow a successful person, comparisons are inevitable. I just wanted to be myself and make the transition as easy as possible."

Wilson, who signed a four-year contract, has left little doubt who is running this team. Spurrier let quarterbacks go without buttoning chin straps in practice because he ordered defensive players not to hit them.

Wilson has told them to button up and take some shots.

Players arriving late for meetings or practice get extra sprints or time on the bench. This week, Wilson had his team line up across the practice field, walk forward and clean up any debris.

"Everything is so structured," said Duke quarterback Billy Ray. "Spurrier was more relaxed. He could afford to be. His last year here we had 28 seniors. I think Coach Wilson is setting the tone because we have so many young players on the team."

Spurrier didn't leave the cupboard stocked with players. Durinhis last two seasons, he was rumored to be heading to Florida, which hurt Duke's recruiting. Also, the Blue Devils lost three starters from the line and two receivers who helped make the offense one of the most productive in the country during the 1989 season.

Wilson has kept the same offensive and defensive schemes, buinexperience has hurt.

Duke is last in the league in total defense, allowing 379.5 yards per game. The Blue Devils still have a potent passing attack, second best in the conference at 242.5, but they have lost seven of 14 fumbles, and nine passes have been intercepted.

"It takes awhile for everything to jell," said Duke offensivlineman Chip Nitowski. "Coach Wilson has prepared us well for ** every game, mentally and physically, but he's not an emotional coach. Spurrier was more fiery. We've got a young team, and all these things are factors. We had some tough times losing early last year, then we won seven games in a row. We have won two in a row now, and hopefully the same thing will happen again."

Krivak said: "I've known Coach Wilson as an assistant, and I'm sure he will get the job done at Duke. You always think you know what it's like to be a head coach, but you really don't know until you become one."

Wilson's career

The coaching career of Duke's Barry Wilson:

* 1965-66, '69: Georgia, freshman coach

* 1970-73: Georgia, linebackers, defensive ends

* 1974-76: Mississippi, linebackers

* 1977-82: Georgia Tech, linebackers

* 1983-84: Tampa Bay Bandits (USFL), defensive line

* 1985: Tampa Bay Bandits, defensive coordinator

* 1987-88: Duke, recruiting coordinator, tight ends

* 1989: Duke, assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator, tight ends

* 1990: Duke head coach

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