A small sign adorns a wall in football coach Al Golden’s office at Edberg-Olson Hall. It’s a modest placard, measuring no larger than a standard sheet of paper.
But the size of the sign’s message is its most significant attribute: A team is a reflection of how it is coached.
Bill Parcells, Golden’s coach for one season in the NFL, spoke those words.
Now Golden will look to put Parcells’ mantra to good use as he begins his first head coaching job. Hired on Dec. 6 after five seasons as the defensive coordinator at University of Virginia, Golden previously served as an assistant coach for 13 years on the college and high school football ranks.
Golden, 36, brings vitality and invigoration to a Temple football program that is in desperate need of a morale boost. The Owls 0-11 last season and haven’t had a winning season since 1990.
Golden said winning every game is an attainable goal in his first season, but he is most concerned with developing an effective relationship between his players and coaches.
Before the month-long break between academic semesters and just days after being hired, Golden began meeting with each of Temple’s returning players. He wanted to learn about their play on the field, their place in the classroom, and their families.
During the same time, Golden hired seven new assistant coaches, including former NFL linebacker James Willis. He also added offensive coordinator George DeLeone, who brings 35 years of coaching experience to the Owls’ sideline.
While his players and assistants have such different backgrounds, Golden said he expects a happy and successful relationship between them.
“[The players] have a feel for the kind of staff I’m putting together and the kind of relationship I want them to have with their coaches,” Golden said. “… It’s all about having one heartbeat. It’s about all being on the same page. Obviously that can only start with one person and that’s me.”
Golden and his assistant coaches hosted 11 high school student-athletes last weekend during one of the program’s five two-day recruitment visits. Golden has two such weekends remaining to charm possible recruits into committing to play at Temple.
He and his assistant coaches have been traveling all over the Eastern seaboard in search of the best student-athletes. The first-year coach’s recruiting reach extends as far north as Connecticut and as far south as Richmond, Va. In between, he and his assistants have traveled throughout the tri-state area and New York, looking for talent.
As of late last week, 13 student-athletes had committed to play for Golden. Three of them will arrive in time to participate in spring camps. Golden would not comment on individual players until they sign letters of intent on national signing day, Feb. 1. The 13 players are a good mix of offense and defense, Golden said.
Quarterback Vaughn Charlton is among the players who have given Temple a verbal commitment, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
A 6-foot-5-inch Landenberg, Pa., native, Charlton was also being recruited by Maryland, Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina. In a run-heavy offense at Avon Grove (Pa.) High, Charlton was named all-league for completing 58-of-88 passes for 972 yards and nine touchdowns.
For the returning lettermen, Golden has said that no job is secure.
“Oh yeah, they know that we’re starting from scratch. I’ve told them that I want to bring in two solid recruiting classes the next two years,” Golden said. “It’s almost like we’re going to be an expansion team. Everyone starts with a clean slate, whether you started one game, one play or three seasons. It’s going be a new style here.”
Golden is committed to winning. The inspirational signs scattered around the team’s practice facility show that side of him. He is having one such sign installed in the lobby of Edberg-Olson Hall, to motivate his players to play well in the Mid-American Conference.
It will read: ‘What did you do today to win the MAC?’
“There is a misconception out there. People think that because we’re going to the MAC, we’re going to win. But two of this team’s worst losses last season were to MAC teams,” Golden said, speaking of a 42-17 loss to Toledo on Sept. 17 and a 70-7 setback to Bowling Green on Oct. 1. “There’s nothing promised in that conference at all.”
Golden clearly has an appreciation for motivational messages, based on the new signs prominently displayed around the team’s practice facility. Golden said he has one more – for himself.
“Where do I stand?” the coach asked. “All my life I’ve been an assistant. In the meeting room and on the field, after the whistle blows, where am I going to go? Where am I going to stand? When [Virginia head coach] Al Groh said that to me, he told me that would be the most difficult thing I would face in my first year, and it makes the most sense.
“I’m the one holding the whistle now.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from the Philadelphia Inquirer was used in this report.