Chris Petersen never feels conflicted when one of his assistant coaches considers a head coaching position elsewhere.
Developing the staff, he said, is just as important as developing players. It’s a task he takes seriously. If someone wants to be a head coach, Petersen can’t make it happen. But he can help.
More than that, he believes he has a responsibility to help.
“If something is better for their family and them, they need to go,” Petersen said at his press conference on Monday. “Then there’s the next coach we’ll get in here and we’ll develop those guys. That’s how it is.
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“I never think twice about that if it’s better for them. It’s their decision. If they want my two cents, I’ll always put it in.”
Preparing members of his staff to run a program is an everyday process, Petersen said. He’s had many coaches say they get more out of team meetings than the players do.
“That’s one of the reasons that I stay on the philosophy that we’re on,” he said. “It’s not always about the players. It’s about us as coaches first. … I like to continually remind myself what we’re all about, about what I want this program to be about, about how I think principles of success carry over to all parts of your life. And so, that’s what I do. Kind of nonstop.”
When Washington faces Oregon State in Saturday’s home finale, one of Petersen’s former coordinators will be standing on the opposite sideline. Beavers’ head coach Jonathan Smith was the Huskies’ offensive coordinator from 2014-2017. He was also the quarterbacks coach under Petersen at Boise State from 2012-2013.
For most of his career, Petersen said Smith was focused on being an offensive coordinator. But when the Oregon State opportunity came along, “he perked up.”
“I think this thing kind of fell in his lap,” Petersen said.
Petersen remembers talking to Smith about the job, but couldn’t recall the details. But with Smith’s ties to Oregon State — he played quarterback for the Beavers from 1998-2001 — it was an intriguing opening.
“He’s an awesome person,” Petersen said. “That’s first and foremost what I always gravitate toward. I think he’s a heck of a coach, I really do. I really enjoyed working with him. I think we saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things. Where we started with the offense to where it ended up when he left was really good.”
Petersen was an assistant coach for more than 15 years before taking over as the head coach at Boise State in 2006. He knows what it takes to make a successful transition.
One of the most important things, he said, is creating an identity. What that looks like is constantly evolving.
“I think it takes a couple of years,” he said. “I think you do what you know, what you’ve seen, what works and you structure it that way. You’re continually tweaking and changing, saying that doesn’t really work for me and I think it’s better this way or that way and you just go.
“You structure things how you know them, how you’ve seen them work and you do it that way and then experience … can be the real catalyst to help you move forward.”
As for the job Smith has done in his first season at Oregon State, Petersen said it’s difficult to assess from the outside looking in. All he knows is what shows up on tape.
“On offense … there’s a lot of things that you know exactly what’s going on there,” Petersen said. “He’s doing a great job with them, he really is. For his first year, to have those first-year players and it looks like they’re all in on that (offense) for sure.
“Now the day-to-workings, the culture and all that, that’s hard for me to know on the outside. But I know offensive scheme-wise, which is his area of expertise, you know what he’s doing.”
Smith’s familiarity with UW’s program will add an extra challenge for the Huskies this week. Petersen and his staff have discussed the issue, he said, and they’ll “make a few tweaks” before Saturday’s matchup.
“It still comes down to kids executing,” Petersen said. “It always does. We’re not going to know what plays are being run and vice-versa. Their schemes, we’re familiar with. They’re familiar with what will come out during the game. They would know that anyway.
“Sometimes, you can know too much. (Smith) knows a lot about us, but there’s a lot of stuff if you’re going to try to defend it all.”
UW left tackle Trey Adams announced on social media that he would be returning to the Huskies for a fifth year. Adams reportedly underwent back surgery and hasn’t played this season. Asked if Adams could still see the field this year, Petersen said “we’ll see. .. We’re kind of on a week-to-week basis with him,” he said.
Petersen had previously targeted this week for defensive lineman Shane Bowman’s return. Bowman broke his foot in September. “I think he’s getting close,” Petersen said. “We’ll see.”