Todd Stroud couldn’t believe the turn of events either.
In a span of 11 hours Sunday, the Miami Hurricanes lost their head football coach and named a replacement.
Mark Richt was out.
Manny Diaz is back.
Everyone in this story has Florida State ties, too.
“What a crazy day,” Stroud said Monday morning.
“Mark had a great run; success hasn’t changed him one bit. I have talked to Mark every month for the past 30-plus years and he’s the same guy. With Manny, you could see he was going to be a head coach and he was going to be a head coach very quickly. His intelligence, organization, the way he sees and processes information. He has a gift.”
Let’s backtrack, just for a moment.
Stroud, 55, of course, is a former Seminole football player (1982-85) and a longtime assistant coach. His career path has featured stops at nine programs, including FSU and most recently at Akron. Stroud has ties – personally and professionally – to Richt and Diaz.
Stroud and Richt were roommates at FSU (1985) and he also was a groomsman in Richt’s wedding (1986) to Katharyn, a FSU student and Tallahassee resident. Richt started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Seminoles (1985-88). Sunday afternoon, Richt announced his retirement at UM after compiling a 26-13 record the past three at his alma mater.
Stroud didn’t see it coming, but he also understands the coaching biz. It’s demanding and can be unfair. Stroud is looking for a job after seven seasons at Akron, the past season as the Zips’ associate head coach and defensive coordinator under Terry Bowden. Bowden and the staff were fired a day after the team completed a 4-8 season.
Late Sunday night – and just over two weeks after leaving Miami as its defensive coordinator to become the head coach at Temple – Diaz was tabbed to replace Richt at UM.
Diaz, 44, has deep roots in the Miami community, where he was raised and his father served as mayor. He also has ties to FSU and Tallahassee.
Diaz attended FSU – where he was a sports writer on the school newspaper – and began his coaching career at FSU in 1998 at the recommendation of assistant coach Chuck Amato. Diaz worked alongside defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews and Amato for two seasons and back-to-back BCS National Championship games. Diaz’s mother still resides in Tallahassee.
Amato, 72, who retired from coaching last February after nearly 50 years in the biz, always believed Diaz would make a good head coach one day.
“Give Manny a job to do the and the job was done yesterday,” Amato said Monday. “The other (graduate assistants) had to do it four times to get it right. I know it’s crazy the way it happened. He was at Temple for 17 days. But you know what? He’s from Miami. His family is there. He was (at Miami). He’s going to do a heck of a job down there.”
FSU fans are certainly aware that Diaz’s link to Miami also is expected to help in recruiting.
FSU, of course, was an annual power in college football due to its ability to recruit the tri-county area in South Florida, led by Amato’s charge during his time at FSU (1982-1999, 2007-09). FSU second-year coach Willie Taggart signed four players from Miami-Dade County during the recent early-signing period – the Seminoles’ largest haul in more than a decade.
“After three years in the Miami Metro area, Manny can certainly fortify Miami’s local recruiting efforts,” Stroud said. “Manny will make it ‘cool’ to be a Cane. He has a ton of energy and works smart and will surround himself with a staff of great recruiters. He will do a great job.”
Amato agreed, pointing to familiarity and name recognition.
Stroud and Diaz coached together at North Carolina State under Amato. Stroud was the Wolfpack’s strength coach (1999-2004) and later the assistant head coach/defensive coach (2004-06). Diaz was a graduate assistant coach (2000) and was elevated fulltime in 2002 as State’s linebackers coach.
Four years later, Diaz’s started on the fast track as one of the nation’s top defensive coordinators when hired at Middle Tennessee State. He also held coordinator posts at Mississippi State, Louisiana Tech and Texas before joining UM in 2016.
Sunday’s coaching carousel in Coral Gables caught everyone off guard. Did that really happen?
Yes, it did.
And it’s cool the story has an FSU tone to it.
“When you are around a great coach, they sort of stick out like a sore thumb – that was Manny,” Stroud said. “You knew he was going to hit it big because of his talents. I coached Jimbo (Fisher) at Samford and he was the same way. They have that gift, the ability to process information – schematically – very quickly. Manny is the total package.
“He will do a good job.”