Wanted: emotional support for first-time college head football coach. Qualifications: Applicant must be experienced with football strategy, thick-skinned and willing to put himself in uncomfortable situations. Compensation: You will earn unwavering respect from your co-workers — and eventually your boss.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Rusty Wright admittedly has, since his hiring in January, grown more and more comfortable in his position. There is still one area, though, where he admits he needs a little assistance (see above).
"I've got to calm myself down a little bit and do some things a little better," he said during Tuesday's media luncheon news conference. "I let my emotions get the best of me about halfway through the fourth quarter when we went for it on fourth-and-1 and probably should have punted it and played defense and see what happens. I was scared if we gave up another touchdown we wouldn't have enough time to come back."
Wright was referring to Saturday's 41-20 loss at Jacksonville State University, where the Mocs had pulled within seven in the second half only to see the Gamecocks push the margin back to 14. UTC faced a fourth-and-1 from its own 34 with under five minutes to play and Wright elected to go for the first down instead of punting. JSU stopped the play and quickly scored to ice the game.
What Wright wants is that person on his staff to step up and question those types of decisions while also providing a calming influence for the often-emotional first-year coach. It's a position he once filled under former UTC coach Russ Huesman, though not really by choice.
"I've got to find that," Wright said. "I've thought about that a lot the last couple of nights. Every coach has one, and I need to find my comfort zone with somebody."
Wright knows it's not something that can be forced and that, with a staff working together for the first time, it won't happen overnight.
"They need to feel comfortable trying to help me. That's the thing. The first year I was here with Coach (Huesman), I didn't step in front of him, I can promise you that. I didn't get near him most of the time. That's just the way it was.
"But the more he trusted me and the more I trusted him and we realized we were on the same page, we got to that point where he could lean on me. Of course, during the game he would tell me never to get in front of him. Afterward, he would ask me if he said it and I would say, 'Yeah, you did," and we would laugh.
"We knew each other at that point, which was the big thing. It will happen here. It just takes time."
Two games in, Wright has shown his emotional side more than he would have liked, reacting vociferously to, as he called them, "stupid, silly mistakes." He's also not held back in cheering his team on when it does well.
He may want to calm down, but his players aren't sure he needs to.
"Coach Wright is really emotional, but I really love that because it shows that he cares and wants us to succeed," offensive lineman McClendon Curtis said. "You can't do anything but buy into somebody like that."
As the Mocs prepare for a visit to the University of Tennessee and a hungry SEC team, Wright is preaching patience — his own and his team's. Most of all, outbursts and all, he's pleased with his team's progress.
"After that game Saturday, I felt bad because we had lost, but I felt much better about this team because we played better," he said. "We played at times like we are capable of playing, but they need to keep building on that."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296; follow on Twitter @youngsports22.