It is important to note that I am not an expert when it comes to hiring coaching. Lance Leipold is only the third football coach hired by the University of Kansas during my time to cover the program to some extent.
Yet the Leipold press conference, which took place at the indoor training facility on Monday morning, was – in my opinion – by far the most impressive of the three.
No promises were made. Leipold was deliberate and thoughtful with all of his answers. And he certainly seems to understand the challenge that awaits him, as Kansas haven’t won more than three games in a season since 2009.
None of this is to say the Jayhawks are going to make a difference under Leipold. After all, hiring college coaches is often a dice game. But, maybe if KU had hired candidates like Leipold these past few times, things might have turned out differently.
With that, here are my first lessons from the Leipold introductory press conference:
It means a lot to Leipold
From the moment Leipold stepped in front of the microphone, you could just tell how much this opportunity meant to him.
After making a quick joke on his walk to the podium, Leipold began his speech by reading the notes he had in front of him. He paused for a brief moment, as he seemed to understand everything, before saying “wow” as he looked around the room.
It was such a subtle sequence, but one that illustrated what it all meant for Leipold.
While every coach surely dreams of having the chance to lead a Power Five program, it was probably a surreal moment for Leipold. He’s only seven years away from coaching a Division III football program at Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he led his team to six national titles.
If you come back and watch Leipold introductory press conference In Buffalo, there has been a lot of talk about how his success will translate at the FBS level. It almost seemed like Leipold still had something to prove.
But Leipold definitely deserved this special opportunity. He kept emphasizing how perfectly suited KU was for him throughout his press conference. And that’s why it felt genuine when he made it clear that he was here to stay in Lawrence.
“I’m not a guy who moves a lot,” said Leipold. “And this is a place that I want to be for a long, long time.”
Continuity is essential for Leipold
In that sense, it seems that Leipold understands the importance of continuity.
When asked what he thinks has held KU back over the past decade, Leipold explained that lack of stability was one of the main reasons. Leipold is actually the fifth coach hired by Kansas since 2010. None of the previous four coaches has lasted more than four years.
“The only thing that stands out, just on the surface, that has held (KU) back is stability,” said Leipold. “Consistency. Continuity. And these are the things we have been discussing with Travis (Goff) (KU athletic director) throughout this process.
But it really goes beyond the man at the helm.
Leipold was ultimately asked about the assistant coaching staff. It remains to be seen how all of this will change, but don’t expect Leipold to just keep assistants in the effort to make the transition more seamless.
Leipold stressed that he is not putting up a staff to just get through the 2021 campaign. He wants to have assistants who are there to stay, which could certainly make things more difficult in the short period of time. But the long game is the ultimate goal.
“As we get the staff together, I want to make sure it’s not for a season,” said Leipold. “We’re going to put together a team for the future – back to the word about continuity and consistency.”
“If the same people are in the room, you have a chance to keep working on something new to improve yourself and not go back and introduce someone new to them,” added Leipold.
Leipold is coming one day at a time
Throughout his five-minute introductory speech and the 30-minute question-and-answer session that followed, Leipold insisted that the rebuilding will not happen overnight. It’s going to be a process.
While it can come across as cliché at times, it was really important that Leipold understood the challenge that lay ahead. The Jayhawks are coming out of a winless campaign in 2020, and things might not be much better in 2021 with a coaching bunch taking place in late spring.
So when Leipold was asked what he would consider a successful season this fall, his answer was perfect given the circumstances.
“We want to stay in the moment,” said Leipold. “We have to be able to find ways to improve ourselves here today. And that will mean when we continue to go through the daily improvement process and establish what we want to be, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.
All indications suggest that Leipold knows this will be a process and that he is not trying to take shortcuts. Whether or not the rebuild happens or not remains to be seen, but it ultimately feels like KU has the right man to at least try it out with.
For comparison, here is Leipold’s introductory press conference in Buffalo.