By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer
In a 30-minute interview with The Associated Press the day before Notre Dame’s spring game last month, Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly answered questions about being on the hot seat this season, the perception that he blames players, whether he was looking for another job at the end of last season, what he was looking for in new coordinators and more.
On the perception by critics that he blames players.
— “I demand. I never demean’em. We have a high level of accountability. We’re very demanding and (the players) expect me to be honest with them on a day-to-day basis. They would say that ‘That’s Coach Kelly being Coach Kelly. If he came in and sugarcoated it, he’s full of it. That’s just not him.’
“But what I will change this year is that I can’t be honest with assessments of players to the media. Totally honest. Because it’s portrayed as throwing players under the bus. Being disloyal to a player. They don’t know the relationship with the player. Based upon what happened last year and the fallout that occurred from other media sources, it doesn’t do the university — it doesn’t do our program — any good for me to be forthright when it comes to those kinds of assessments of our players.”
On becoming more involved in all aspects of the team.
— “So I think you look at it as a CEO. You’re in charge of this division, you’re in charge of that division, and you hold your group accountable if they don’t get their job done. I’m not running the business that way anymore. I’m on the floor. I’m involved with everything that’s going on. I’m not micromanaging anything. But I want our players to know that I am involved in everything they’re involved with on a day-to-day basis.”
On being on the hot seat this season.
— “If you have a 4-8 season and you follow it up with another bad season at Notre Dame that to me would say that you don’t know how to fix it. You haven’t figured out what the problem is at Notre Dame. I’m very confident that I know what the issue was. So will we win 12 games? I can’t guarantee that we’ll win 12 games. But we’re certainly not going to have the same issues that we had last year. Which were pretty clear that we were not a gritty, tough football team in the fourth quarter. If we do all the other things the right way, which, I’ve been doing it a long time, I think I know how to do those things.”
On speculation and unconfirmed media reports that he was interested in finding another job at the end of last season.
— “I was 4-8. I can tell you that my agent and I never had conversations with anybody. It in the offseason came up that maybe my name was used to enhance some other searches. But, no, we were never looking for jobs.”
On new defensive coordinator Mike Elko.
— “We were going from schemes to fundamentals on defense. We were a heavy scheme team. Then when I got over and took over the defense with (assistant coach) Mike Elston we went back to fundamentals and we saw a great change in our success rate on defense. So I was looking for somebody who was going to really focus on the fundamentals on defense. That’s Mike Elko.”
On new offensive coordinator Chip Long.
— “I wanted to find a play caller. Somebody that had the knack. The art. Calling plays is a feel thing, it’s an art. You can be in this business for 30 years and you still can’t call plays. You’ve got a connection and feel that this guy can call plays. I’ve seen that that was something that was going to be difficult for me. And it was in a way difficult when I stepped back a little bit at times because I have not felt comfortable because I haven’t found the guy. I found the guy.”
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