They’re hating this in Philadelphia. It’s OK. Manny Diaz is now a villain there. That’s all right.
The Miami Hurricanes have played football versus the Temple Owls 13 times, last in 2005, and never lost.
UM didn’t lose this time, either. The Canes won big.
A few weeks ago Diaz, the Hurricanes’ elite defensive coordinator, said he was leaving UM to become head coach at Temple University. It was a gut punch to the program.
Sunday morning, Mark Richt abruptly and unexpectedly retired from coaching. Another blindside hit.
By Sunday evening — no need for that “national search” they had talked about — Diaz had said sorry, Temple, and returned to UM to replace Richt.
Turned out the national search was a single phone call.
“You in?” “I’m in!”
Canes football surely has had weirder, more tumultuous single days in its history, but for now we’ll nominate a shocking head coach resignation followed just hours later by the hiring of a guy who had just left for another job.
Where Richt’s bombshell left the Miami program in disarray, Diaz’s return lent an immediate sense of stability. Of continuity
Alas, it came at the expense of jilted Temple, which had introduced Diaz as its new head coach on Dec. 13 only to lose him before New Year’s Eve.
“As excited as I am about staying home, I hate the way this unfolded with respect to Temple,” Diaz admitted. “I was given a tremendous opportunity to lead the Temple program, and I was actively engaged in doing just that when I woke up [Sunday] morning. I never saw this coming. No one did.”
In fact Diaz was interviewing an offensive coordinator candidate at Temple on Sunday morning as Richt was informing UM athletics director Blake James of his immediate resignation.
Getting Diaz back to replace Richt seems the perfect fit. Both sides wanted the other. It’s why Diaz risked the negative backlash for leaving Temple. It’s why UM was willing to pay Temple $4 million to buy out his contract.
Diaz’s roots — born-and-raised Miamian don’t alone make him a great fit. Randy Shannon was a former Hurricanes linebacker but fell short as a head coach. Richt had been seen as a great hire in part because he was a former Canes quarterback but walked away after three years, his job left undone.
Diaz taking over excites not because he is of the 3-0-5 but mostly because we have seen what he did for Miami’s defense the past three seasons since joining Richt’s staff.
He invented the “Turnover Chain” phenomenon, which jibed so perfectly with UM’s history and sense of swagger. Again this season, UM’s defense was the bright spot in a a down year that ended with a 35-3 bowl loss to Wisconsin and a 7-6 record, chasing Richt into sudden retirement.
Now we find out if Diaz, 44, is ready to be a head coach. Is he able to elevate from being the defense guy to running a whole major program? And lifting that program back to greatness — the task Richt took on and then abandoned? Is he able to make Coral Gables a destination for elite talent? Can he produce an offense to equal what he created on defense.
It’s the offense he must overhaul. It’s a quarterback he must find.
It’s a way to bridge the ACC gulf between Miami and Clemson that he must find.
For Miami, getting Diaz quickly back home to replace Richt feels like a victory, like all-good. Now all Diaz has to do is prove it to be so.
Richt seemed like the perfect hire.
Manny Diaz needs to be.