Maryland coaches fly with wings of destiny

November 22, 1990|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- Outside linebackers coach Kurt Van Valkenburgh had been an assistant with the University of Maryland only eight months when head coach Bobby Ross resigned in November 1986.

"I just said, 'Oh no, here we go again,' " said Van Valkenburgh. "It's tough when you don't have any control, but it's part of the business. Thank goodness Joe [Krivak] succeeded Bobby."

Van Valkenburgh says he is one of the lucky ones. He has changed jobs only seven times as an assistant since he began coachingin 1972. Maryland defensive coordinator Greg Williams has made eight changes.

Williams and Van Valkenburgh, along with the eight other coaches on the Maryland staff, are confident they won't have to make another change by next week.

University of Maryland head coach Joe Krivak and athletic director Andy Geiger have been meeting this week to decide if Krivak (18-25-1 record), who recently finished the fourth and final year of his contract, will be retained.

And if Krivak isn't, most of the Maryland coaching staff will have to break out the real estate signs.

Again.

But this week, it has been business as usual for the coaching staff. After last Saturday's 35-30 upset of Virginia, most of them hit the road and the recruiting trail.

But they can't stop thinking about what has happened in the past, and what may happen in the future.

"Basically, your destiny is controlled by other people," said Van Valkenburgh, who is married and has three children. "And once you get fired or the head coach resigns, it leaves you with that hollow feeling in your mind. It's tough moving from spot to spot, especially once your kids get attached."

Maybe only truck drivers and airplane pilots move across the country more often.

A lot of assistants relocate because they want to work their way up and eventually become head coaches.

And some move because they are fired.

Krivak, while an assistant under Ross, once admitted that he was afraid to build an addition onto his home because Ross kept suggesting he might resign before the last two years of his contract were up.

Krivak remembers the day Ross finally did resign.

"He walked into the office and said, 'Guys, that's it. It's over,' " said Krivak.

It was that simple?

"That was about it. Hey, we all know it's part of the business," saidKrivak.

Van Valkenburgh was part of Dick Bestwick's staff (1976-81) that was fired and preceded George Welsh at Virginia.

Here's how he got his pink slip:

"The recruiting coordinator called me at home and said, 'Hey, I got a phone call. Come on in, the party is over,' " he said.

"I remember going home and telling my wife. She said, 'Well, what are we going to do next?' It's tough when you don't know what you're going to do, when you're going to do it and how you're going to get there. You never really put away the real estate sign. You know you're going to use it sooner or later."

Williams points out that being an assistant isn't all bad. His family has seen the country, been to numerous bowl games and received a fine education as a result of his involvement with the football program.

"My wife has been very supportive," said Williams. "Actually, I don't consider this work. I really haven't worked a day in my life."

Van Valkenburgh said: "I enjoy working with the players and developing their abilities. The kids are fun to be around and it's exciting. Then there is the thrill of the game itself."

But Van Valkenburgh said for every high, there are five lows. One of the lows is an assistant's contract. If a head coach is fired with two years left on his contract, the university must buy out the rest of his contract. Assistants usually sign one-year contracts.

Van Valkenburgh says sometimes you can see the end coming, like during his last year at Virginia, when the Cavaliers were 1-10.

"There was just a lot of speculation,"" said Van Valkenburgh. "We pretty much knew how it was going to end."

He says there wasn't nearly as much pressure at Maryland during the 1990 season.

rTC "We all knew this was the final year of the coach's contract," said Van Valkenburgh. "But we all agreed to do the best job that we could and let whatever will happen take place.

"One thing about being a coach, you're only as good as your last game," said Van Valkenburgh, laughing. "Right now, we're great. After the North Carolina game [a 34-10 loss] we were just a big bunch of dummies. But now, after beating Virginia, we became real smart since that North Carolina game."

Maryland assistant coaches

* George Foussekis, assistant head and inside linebackers coach, at Maryland since 1971.

* Greg Williams, defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, at Maryland since 1982.

* Jerry Eisaman, quarterbacks coach, returned this season; quarterbacks coach, 1972-81.

* Dennis Murphy, defensive line coach, 1982 to present.

* Paul Tortorella, tight ends and special teams coach, 1990.

* Rod Sharpless, wide receivers coach, returned this season; linebackers coach from 1977-81.

* Kurt Van Valkenburgh, outside linebackers coach, 1986 to present.

* Tony Whittlesey, offensive coordinator and running backs coach, became wide receivers coach in 1990.

* John Zernhelt, offensive line coach, 1987 until present.

* Jeff Mann, recruiting coordinator and administrative assistant, 1982 to present.

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