Within a span of 12 hours, the Miami Hurricanes went from announcing that their head football coach was retiring to naming a familiar face as his replacement.
Out is Mark Richt, who stepped down Sunday after 18 years as a head coach, including the past three at his alma mater UM.
His replacement: Manny Diaz, Richt’s defensive coordinator all three years at Miami who had accepted the head coaching job at Temple earlier this month on Dec. 12.
“I never saw this coming, no one did,” Diaz said in a release sent out by UM late Sunday night officially announcing the hire. “I do hope that the Temple players, administration and fans appreciate the uniqueness of this situation and the overwhelming pull to stay home. Pat Kraft is a phenomenal leader and I know he will hire a great coach to move them forward.”
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But who is Diaz?
The 44-year-old Cuban American is a Miami native and the son of former Miami mayor Manny Diaz Sr.
He went to Miami Country Day and was a three-sport athlete in football basketball and baseball before ultimately attending Florida State and graduating in 1995. That’s where his 21 year (and counting) coaching career began as a graduate assistant in 1998.
From there, he went on to North Carolina State for six years, spending two years each as a graduate assistant (2000-2001), linebackers coach (2002-2003) and safeties coach/special teams coordinator (2004-2005).
After that, it was stops at Middle Tennessee (2006-2009), Mississippi State (2010), Texas (2011-2013), Louisiana Tech (2014) and Mississippi State again (2015) — all as defensive coordinator — before he returned home to coach alongside Richt at UM.
“At this stage he gets it,’’ Diaz Sr. told the Herald back in 2016. “We’re so excited to have Manny and the family back home.’’
The Hurricanes were happy he was here, too, considering he led some of the top defenses in the country all three years.
He brought back a 4-3, speed-driven, pummel-the-quarterback defense reminiscent of former UM champions and it paid off.
UM’s defense improved progressively year over year under Diaz, culminating in 2018 with the Hurricanes leading the country in tackles for loss (136), ranking fifth in total defense (just 278.9 yards allowed per game) and 18th in scoring defense (19.5 points allowed per game).
He’s candid. He tells it like it is. And he’s respected by his players and colleagues.
“Manny understands the Miami swagger, Diaz Sr. said. “He grew up in it.’’
And while it looked like he might be leaving when he took that Temple job, he’s staying where he grew up.