“He is obviously one of the best to ever coach the game, and I also think he is one of the best people to ever coach the game. He is a true gentleman.’ –Dabo Swinney on Mack Brown
When he became the head coach at Clemson in December of 2009, Dabo Swinney reached out to several successful head coaches at the time.
Swinney wanted to pick their brain a little bit. Get some advice and see how they run their programs. He also wanted to bring his coaches along with him so they all could learn together.
Remember, at the time, Swinney had never been a head coach before. It was all new to him. Everything was moving fast. The Tigers had just signed their first recruiting class, “The Dandy Dozen.” It was early February and Swinney was anxious to learn.
However, only one coach responded to his request. That coach was Mack Brown, who was just three years removed from winning a national championship at Texas and was on the verge of taking another team to the BCS National Championship Game.
“I was excited to be able to start fresh with an off-season program, spring practice, planning and start to get some process and philosophies that I believed in, in place,” said Swinney, who explained while he was in the interim coach in 2008 he had to learn on the run. “So, I reached out to a few people and Mack was the only one who said, ‘Yeah. Come on!’ I did not know him from Adam. I had called and left a message and he called me back like we had known each other forever.
“He told me he had followed what we had done during our interim time. He was happy and he was like, ‘I would love to have you guys out here. Come on out here.’”
Swinney did, and he took the whole staff. He remembers how gracious everyone on Texas’ staff was. He even mentioned how “awesome” and gracious Will Muschamp was. Muschamp, now the head coach at South Carolina, was Brown’s defensive coordinator at Texas.
Brown ended up spending hours with Swinney, as the new coach asked question after question.
“I just soaked it up,” Swinney said. “He was very patient with me.”
This Saturday, when No. 1 Clemson heads to North Carolina to play the Tar Heels, the roles will be reversed at Keenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. The young apprentice is now teaching his mentor.
“They have the best program in the country. They have the best head coach and coaches in the country. They have the most depth in the country,” Brown said.
Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) has won 19 straight games coming into Saturday’s contest, the second-best mark in the history of the ACC and the longest active winning streak in the country. The Tigers have won 21 straight regular season games and have won each of their last 14 games by at least 14 points, the third longest such streak in the 83-year history of the Associated Press Poll.
“From our standpoint, we want to be the Clemson of the Coastal (Division),” Brown said. “They are the best team in the country. They are the best team in the ACC. They are dominating the ACC and all of us are trying to catch them.”
Swinney credits Brown for a lot of things that helped build Clemson into a national power. Now, he gets the opportunity to show how much he has really learned when they line up across from each other this Saturday.
“I am excited about competing against Coach Brown. He is obviously one of the best to ever coach the game, and I also think he is one of the best people to ever coach the game. He is a true gentleman,” Swinney said. “He loves his players. He has a lot of relationships from many, many years at many different schools. I think again, he is one of the most respected people in this business.
“He has been a friend to me, so it is exciting. This is not something I thought I would get the opportunity to do, to compete against Coach Brown. So, it is kind of cool that I get a chance to do that and visit with him a little bit before the game.”
However, this time it might be Brown that is asking all the questions.
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