New Texas assistant Gilbert tight-lipped on Fenves visit
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Sterlin Gilbert may be the only assistant coach in the country who got an in-home recruiting visit from a major university president.
But on his third day on the job, Gilbert clearly didn’t want to say much about the extraordinary effort Texas made sweet-talking him into leaving Tulsa for one of the toughest jobs in the country: Longhorns offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after two straight losing seasons under coach Charlie Strong.
When Gilbert initially balked at the job, Texas flew Strong, school President Greg Fenves and athletic director Mike Perrin to Tulsa on Friday night for an in-home visit to woo him.
Three hours later, the 37-year-old who was coaching Texas high schools four years ago and didn’t call plays at his last two college jobs, had a three-year, $850,000 deal for himself, and a three-year, $550,000 job for offensive line coach and close friend Matt Mattox.
“That situation was about commitment,” Gilbert said. “It was commitment about me getting here, and I am here now. That’s it.”
Strong introduced Gilbert and Mattox at a campus news conference, then retreated to the wings to listen to Gilbert describe his offensive philosophy — “fast, physical, have fun, score points” — and praise his mentor and Texas rival, Baylor coach Art Briles.
Praise for Briles may sting some Texas fans, but Gilbert got his start as a graduate assistant under Briles at Houston.
Gilbert said he called Briles several times last week and said the Baylor coach was “instrumental” in his decision to come to Texas.
Missing from the room Monday were Fenves and Perrin. A Texas athletic department spokesman said Fenves had another commitment and that Perrin was out sick.
Gilbert thanked Fenves and Perrin for the opportunity to come to Texas. But he wouldn’t say if he asked for the in-person meeting with the administrators or who took charge of the final negotiations for university: the coach, the president or the athletic director.
Strong said Fenves and Perrin flew with him to Tulsa to “show support they have not only for me, but also or this program.”
A Fenves spokesman declined comment on the Tulsa meeting.
Texas’ muscle-flexing to get Gilbert started after the Longhorns were twice turned down: first by TCU assistant Sonny Cumbie and then Gilbert himself.
The urgent meeting to snare Gilbert could be a risky move for both Strong and Fenves. Strong is widely considered to be under pressure to win in 2016 or be fired and Gilbert will be seen as the lynchpin to success or failure.
Fenves potentially risked political capital at a school where his predecessor was forced out by a Board or Regents that includes members who secretly tried to lure Nick Saban from Alabama in early 2013.