University of Miami

You can’t fool Manny Diaz. Here’s what the new Canes coach said when cornered on WQAM

Manny Diaz got his first big-time radio test as the new University of Miami head coach when he was nonchalantly (and good-naturedly) told during a fun interview Friday afternoon on WQAM’s Hochman and Crowder show: “Tell us a little bit about the new defensive coordinator Blake Baker.’’

Baker is the Louisiana Tech defensive coordinator who is believed to have accepted the same position with the Hurricanes. But if it has happened, it has not yet been announced.

“Here’s what you need to know about our defensive staff,’’ Diaz said, seemingly a bit off kilter by the remark, but assuredly gaining steam as he proceeded to somewhat bypass the WQAM statement. “All great coaching staffs have great alignment. All great coaching staffs have a unity of thought and a unity of vision.

“So, when I was looking to put our defensive staff together. I think that’s a big part of our success the last few years. And I’ve been saying it repeatedly over the last couple of years. We have great graduate assistants, great quality control coaches. But [current UM assistant defensive coaches] Mike Rumph, Ephraim Banda, Jonathan Patke, Jess Simpson, those guys are all big-time guys. And they all know exactly how the Miami Hurricanes should play defense. So, any addition to our staff that we have is going to believe in the same things, be trained in the same way so that our players understand that what they’ve been hearing for the last three years is not going to change. And we can feel very confident going on from there.”

Continued Diaz: “That was the most important thing, to have that continuity. But again, Ephraim Banda will be very important in how we game plan and do things going forward... Jonathan Patke and everybody’s role on defense coming back from a year ago is going to sort of expand. But the most important thing is the synergy of the staff, everybody being on the same page and the players having the comfort of the structure of the staff and understanding that everybody can basically finish everybody’s sentences.’’

Then, Diaz was asked how challenging it is for him “as a defensive guy, a defensive-minded guy… to build an offensive staff and change an offensive approach as well?” Note that Diaz also had not announced an offensive coordinator as of Friday.

Replied Diaz: “It could be a challenge but here’s how you solve challenges: You have to understand who you are at your core, who you are at your sort of philosophical center. So, like I mentioned, if I’m going to be responsible for the offense, I want our offense to mirror our defense.

“So, what is our defense? It’s aggressive. Well first everybody says it’s aggressive. Well, we’re going to be aggressive on offense.

“What does our defense do? It creates problem for the opposition schematically, OK. We want to do the same thing on offense. We’re not afraid to take chances but at the same time we’re very sound. We do a good job of limiting big plays. So, we want our offense and special teams, for that matter, to maintain the personality of what we’ve done on defense. So what you now do is you go out and you start looking around for who fits that. You already know what you’re looking for.

“What has been fantastic has been the response of people that want this job and want to be the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami because everybody sees that there really is potential here to do some great things. So, it has been fun for me to go through the process of seeing all the outstanding candidates and I think everybody is going to be really excited when we’re able to announce who the new offensive coordinator is.”

Finally, Diaz was asked if he would like to announce the offensive coordinator “right now.’’

Diaz: “It’s not going to happen.”

Said host Marc Hochman: “I thought it was worth a try. You never know. It would help the ratings for sure.”

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Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.