Willingham adds five assistants to Huskies staff

Randy Hart considers himself "a lucky man" to have lasted as an assistant football coach at Washington through five different coaches — which is probably some sort of record in the profession.

But he's also a cautious man. So despite the fact that all signs indicated weeks ago that he would be retained as UW's defensive-line coach by Tyrone Willingham, Hart said he didn't really breathe a sigh of relief until yesterday morning. That's when he met with Willingham and was told he was officially being asked to stay on.

"I just feel very, very fortunate," said Hart, who was hired at UW in 1988 by Don James and has been at the school ever since.

Hart was one of five assistant coaches officially named by Willingham yesterday — the first official members of Willingham's staff — though none was a surprise as reports had linked all to UW in recent days.

Also staying on is Chris Tormey as linebackers coach. Tormey worked at UW from 1984-94, then returned last season after stints as head coach at Idaho and Nevada.

Willingham also hired three coaches who worked for him last year at Notre Dame: defensive coordinator Kent Baer, secondary coach Steven Wilks and offensive line coach Mike Denbrock.

Wilks and Denbrock are newcomers to the area. But Baer has a long West Coast history, having worked for 15 years in the Pac-10 at Arizona State, Cal and Stanford. He was defensive coordinator for Willingham at Stanford from 1999-2001 and the last three years at Notre Dame.

Baer served as Notre Dame's interim head coach for its appearance in the Insight Bowl after Willingham was fired. He also interviewed to be defensive coordinator at Arizona State and head coach at New Mexico State.

"It's been a month I'll never forget, put it that way," he said.

Baer's defenses were known for their ability to contain the run and force turnovers at Notre Dame.

"Very multiple, very aggressive, play hard, try to create turnovers," Baer said when asked his defensive style.

Willingham said he was looking for assistants "who are pros, who understand the game, the X's and O's and the ups and downs of the game and how to communicate. I'm looking for strong, positive people."

Willingham still must fill four openings, including offensive coordinator. He said he has no timetable for making the hires, though offensive coordinator is the most urgent from a recruiting standpoint.

"But at the same time, I have a pretty good idea what we are going to do on offense and I think I can communicate that to recruits," he said.

One source had said Willingham was trying to hire Boise State offensive coordinator Chris Petersen, but Petersen is apparently staying put.

Others say that Steve Sarkisian, the former Brigham Young quarterback who is now with the Oakland Raiders and spent the previous two seasons as the quarterbacks coach at USC, may be in the mix.

Willingham said it was possible he could still hire other members of his Irish staff, though one he apparently won't be bringing with him is offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick.


• The Spring Game will be held April 23 at Husky Stadium.

• The school said 43 football players had grade-point averages of 3.0 or better last quarter.

• Walk-on freshman TE Michael Gottlieb from Mercer Island has been placed on scholarship.

• Willingham named Erica Genise director of football operations. She held the post at Notre Dame the past three years and last season was the only female director of football operations in Division I-A football.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

UW football assistants
Coach Responsibility
Kent Baer Defensive coordinator
Steven Wilks Secondary
Mike Denbrock Offensive line
Randy Hart Defensive line
Chris Tormey Linebackers