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How Will Coaching Changes Impact Aztecs And Chargers?

How Will Coaching Changes Impact Aztecs And Chargers?
How will the Aztecs' football program be affected by the departure of Brady Hoke? Who's likely to replace Ron Rivera as the Chargers' defensive coordinator? We speak to Jay Paris, of the North County Times, about the latest local sports news.

How will the Aztecs' football program be affected by the departure of Brady Hoke? Who's likely to replace Ron Rivera as the Chargers' defensive coordinator? We speak to Jay Paris, of the North County Times, about the latest local sports news.


Jay Paris, North County Times Sports Columnist


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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, you're listening to These Days on KPBS. How about those Aztecs? Which Aztecs, you might ask? The team that just lost its winning head coach or the team that's tearing up the Courts in mount an west conference play? Well, whichever team you mean, we are about to talk about them. Joining me now to catch us up on some local sports headlines is my guest, Jay Paris with North County times. He's sports columnist there. And good morning, Jay. It's good to talk with you again.

PARIS: Good morning, good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So let's -- before we get to the smokin' hot basketball at the men's Aztecs, let's talk about football. What do you think about the loss of Brady Hoke? How will that impact the Aztecs' football program?

PARIS: You know, he's really built something special here in his short time. Been here two seasons, and really, I'd like to see him build on that foundation. But we went with rocky long who's on staff, and he's a previous head coach at New Mexico. And had some success there. So they think this thing will keep ongoing. That said, there was some heart broke when poke, or his version of the hokeypokey dance out of town that he really -- that he did leave and he did take that job in Michigan. But that's his dream job, and you know, good for him. But you hear some San Diego state people who are disgruntled and didn't like how he left town.



PARIS: And you gotta remember, if you wanna play with these big boys in NCAAs, you gotta make this step, there's gonna be some behind the door maneuvers, there's gonna be some stuff that's off the charts, if you will. But that's what you wanna do if you want to elevate this program. My mom's from Mississippi, she always says, if you pray for rain, don't complain about the mud. So if he's gonna go out and get a Brady Hoke -- remember, he left his school to come out to San Diego State and didn't even coach in their bowl game. And that's where he's an alumnus from. So he moves on to greener pastures in his vines. The but he leaves behind a legacy, if you will, in this two years that he's flipped the culture, he's flipped the personality of the football program and has really put them on the map.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, national signing day for high school recruits is February 2nd. How do you think this change from hope to long is going to impact SDSU's recruit something.

PARIS: You know, it's real. And that's why that was such a unfortunate two or three days when everything was up in the air because those recruits are waiting. I mean, this is the decision of where they're gonna spend their next 4 or 5 years. And it's a critical decision. And even here locally, Vista quarter back, Stefan McClure, who was the CIF defense player of the year, he had San Diego state high on his list, and this is it a prized recruit. Well, now, all of a sudden, he's rearranged a few things, he's gonna make a visit to Michigan, and look at Brady's program, and maybe go there. So it is big. And rocky long isn't Brady Hoke. And whatever Brady had, he really clicked and connected with the kids, but he's not the first coach to leave, and the Aztecs oughta be okay.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One more question about this. Rocky long since he was part of this winning team for the Aztecs, do you think there's a possibility that his impact on the team is gonna just maintain the excellence of the Brady Hoke tradition?

PARIS: It's possible, and it's also possible that he could build on it and reach a little higher. I mean, if you put their two resumes, you know, side by size, rocky long has done more than Brady Hoke. Now, he didn't flip ball state. He flipped New Mexico, which is quite an undertaking in itself. And he's had some success down there. Of so this isn't a green guy they're gonna break in and see how he does. He has a long track record of very, very well respected, especially defensively, around the NCAA. I think the key really is who they bring in to run the offense of the because not only did Brady Hoke leave, about you he took his offensive coordinator, Al Borges with him, and that's a big one.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's move on to basketball. SDSU men's basketball is having its best season ever. The Aztecs are ranked now, I believe, at still sixth in the nation. So why is this team playing at such of a high level?

PARIS: Talent and experience and coaching. You know, the NCAA basketball, it's just a wild game these day, because the best players, the really good guys, the all American, the blue chip guys, they play one year. Maybe they play two years. So if you have a sophmore on your team who's talented, he's an old timer, almost. That's totally what San Diego state hasn't done. They are loaded with senior experience. Loaded with senior leadership, the guys coming back from last year's team, and they have some younger guys Kawhi Leonard, and DJ Gazo, the senior point yard, is really running that show. And Steve fisher, there's a Michigan guy, he likes staying in San Diego state. He's been to the highest mountain tops of the NCAA tournaments with Michigan. And he's an old pro, he's not gonna see too much that he hasn't seen before. So I think that's a commission of all those players coming back, and all those players not deciding to go professionally yet, to make one more run for it. So they have been doing it down low, with their forewards and their link down there with their center, but DJ gave 30 points the other night, and if they could shoot it outside like they did the other night in New Mexico, combined with that skill down low, that's a pretty tough combination to beat.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, what kind of crowds have been turning out at SDSU for their basketball games?

PARIS: Well, it's so big that coach fisher has lost probably five pounds 'cause when he first showed up here about a dozen years ago, he used to walk around the campus with his pockets stuffed with tickets. He couldn't give them away. Now the house arena is jumpin', and it's 12000 strong, and they've already had 4 or 5 sell outs. It's happening, it's gone from being a basketball game to an event, and whenever you transcend that, that means you've arrived.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, you know this more than anybody else, Jay, that when the Aztecs started winning this year, a lot of people said that they were playing nondescript teams, and they really weren't much of anything, and they really weren't bringing game. But now that you watch this Aztecs team, do you think they have what it takes to go deep into the NCAA tournament?

PARIS: Yes, because they've put a few more notches on that belt since early in the year. When you beat UNLV as they did last week, that's a dynamite team. When you go down to New Mexico, and it's called a pit for a reason, they've run 16 straight there, and 16 straight over ranked teams. When you have almost a double digit lead in the second half, and really blow them out, that's saying something. Every team has some cup cakes, if you will, to pad the schedule. But they have been playing teams with a little meat on the bone here lately, and they haven't blinked and they haven't backed down. Now, they got BYU in a week, and there's still plenty of hills to climb up there for them, but they're very real, and they're legitimate. And all you have to do is talk to opposing coaches to find that out.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Talk to us just a little bit about this BYU match up, because that's supposed to be one of the really big games coming up.

PARIS: [CHECK] Their all American guard, he's just a fabulous player. And BYU and San Diego state, they always play each other tough. And they're definitely the, you know, the class of the league. New Mexico is awful good, and UNL is up there as well. But that's gonna be quite a game, and it's down to BYU as well which makes it even tougher. But this team has proved it can go out on the road, and it can go play in hostile environments, and it can play, you know, the five players on the Court, and the six-man in the stand, if you will. So -- and I think that speaks back to that experience, back to coach fisher, back to all those seniors who have been there before.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Because BYU is almost undefeated this season, right?

PARIS: Right, and they'll make the NCAA tournament at the end of the year, as will UNLV as well San Diego State. So the mountain west conference, it's certainly made some strides in football. But it's among the best in the basketball among the basketball conference. And San Diego State has proven that. They're the best team on the west coast, and some way west of the Mississippi.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: All right, so, let's move on to the Chargers because the Aztecs aren't the only football team that experienced coaching changes this year. Ron Rivera, issue the Chargers defensive coordinator over the last couple of seasons has accepted the job of head coach of the Carolina Panthers of how do you think that move is gonna impact the Chargers?

PARIS: It'll be interesting to see. It's kind of funny, Chargers fans have been clamor for a coaching change for so long. And on one day, San Diego lost Ron Rivera and Brady Hoke. Charger fans were probably looking for Norv Turner to be in there, but he wasn't quite in that mix. But Ron deserves it. He interviewed nine times for head coaching jobs and good guy, good solid coach. And we'll do fine. But they're hurting down there in Carolina. But he'll turn it around eventually. Here, Greg Manusky comes in, he was a linebackers coach under Marty Shotenheimer, previous head coach, he's been in San Francisco the last four years, running their defense. And he's a fiery guy now. He'll -- Ron was a little more cerebral, and a little more calm. But Greg Manusky is right out of central casting for a football coach. He'll be screaming and hollering, cussing and spitting. So there shouldn't be much of a drop off there, he's familiar with a lot of the players too from his previous tenure. So they should be fine there.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, apparently N, FL fans are worried there may not be a season next year. Of what's that about?

PARIS: They can't figure out how to carve up that billion dollar pie. It hasn't reached that point yet, and there's a lot of smart people up there making a lot of money. I'd be surprised if it got to that point where there wasn't football next year, but, you know, these deals, they usually get done at 1159, and 59 seconds right before the deadline. But there is it a cause for concern. There's discrepancies and of course, disagreements on the revenue sharing and moving forward with the different media avenues and such. So there's still some negotiating that needs to be done. But I bet they kick it off next year.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You don't think there's gonna be any real chance they say forget it, we just can't work this out?

PARIS: You know, there's just so much money at stake. That too, and the owners have some deeper pockets than the players, obviously. And they've already -- in their TV contract, they're already gonna get the TV money even if there isn't a season. So you can see this one coming after a while. And hopefully it's some of those players that stashed a few of the paychecks, it's gonna come down to who blinks first, and the owners are in a little better position not to blink.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with North County Times sports columnist, Jay Paris, and moving for just our last few minutes here to talk about Trevor of man, his retirement and his move to the Padres front office. What would you like to say about the career of Trevor Hoffman.

PARIS: I like to focus on off the field.


PARIS: And you know, he's got 601 saves, nobody had more, six seasons or whatever, 40 more saves. The back of the bubble gum card just jumps out at you. But I like to watch guys when the cameras aren't on them. I like to watch guys when they're around kids and families. Trevor might have told the kid no autograph, but I never saw it. His work with the community, his work with charities, his father's a former marine as well, and the military out reach programs, he just would never say no. But it speaks to how he was raised and speaks to how -- speaks to why he was such a good teammate. He could cross different backgrounds and ethnicities, and he could always get along with everybody. And that was a tough one when he left San Diego. Those marriages -- those divorces are tough when an icon leaves. Just look what happened here recently with Andy Tom Lynn son. And stuff going out the door. But with the new ownership, and the Padres in the new front office, whatever bridges were torched previously had been rebuilt, and he's a San Diego icon, and he's back where he belongs.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As we've been saying, he's accepted a position of, quote, "special assistance to baseball operations." In the article read, Trevor Hoffman said he was looking forward to finding out what he was gonna be doing.

PARIS: Right, well, I don't think he's gonna be taking tickets or serving beer. But he's probably open to anything else. He'd probably work with the team down in Peoria in training in spring in uniform and kind of be a roving instructor, and maybe get up and learn a little bit about the behind the door stuff. And I was talking to buddy black about this, when he does -- when Trevor does speak to those young kids, these are kids with big guys and trying to get that one season in the big leagues, trying to get that one chance. And here's a man who didn't start pitching until after he was drafted. He was drafted in the 11th round, which was about a thousand people deep, as a short stop. And through his working, through his tenacity, and through his perseverance, he became the greatest relief pitcher of all time. So when he walks in that room, there's not gonna be too many chins resting on their hands of he'll get their attention, and if they're smart, they'll listen to what me says.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And also my last question. Isn't there an idea that someone like Trevor Hoffman is kept on for the fans.

PARIS: Oh, sure. That's a great public relations move. He could be out there shaking and signing and smilingly. That's good for the Padres of let's face it, they left a guy who was on track to be an icon, if he wasn't already, Adrian Gonzalez go in the off season. They got a boat load of good prospects bump that's a dangerous working prospects. So the fans are -- they took a shot this off season by losing Adrian, and with the good news of Tony Guin fighting through his cancer, and he'll probably be back calling the games on TV, with Trevor Hoffman, that's a warm and fuzzy for the customers.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jay, I have to thank you so much.

PARIS: Okay, always good talking to you. Cheers.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jay Paris, North County Times sports columnist. And stay with us because coming up in the next hour, an encore performance of the MLK choir here on These Days. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.