Sept. 10, 2009
By TIM BOOTH
AP SPORTS WRITER
SEATTLE -- Joel Thomas, Washington's running backs coach, says there's a joke in the coaching profession about "having done your time on the Palouse" and being part of the staff at Idaho.
The coaching group Thomas is part of might be taking it to the extreme. He is one of eight coaches or graduate assistants on the staff at Washington that either played or coached - or both - for Idaho at some point in their careers.
All of them will get fully reacquainted with the black and gold Vandals on Saturday when Idaho plays at Washington.
"It's a special place to live and go to school and coach," Thomas said this week about Idaho. "I probably wouldn't be here at the University of Washington had I not done my time at Idaho as a player and met the coaches and staff I had at that time."
Thomas is the Vandals career leader in yards rushing, attempts and rushing touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier threw for more than 10,000 yards during his career in Moscow, Idaho. Offensive line coach Dan Cozetto played three different positions for the Vandals in the late 1970s, while linebackers coach Mike Cox was a three-year starter at linebacker and coached another seven seasons in Moscow.
The youngest member of the Washington staff - graduate assistant Mike Anderson - played linebacker and defensive end for the Vandals from 2002-2005. In total, a half-century - 50 years - of coaching and playing experience at Idaho is on the staff at Washington.
"When we were in the process of hiring a staff, we were really looking for guys that had ties to the Northwest, that want to be part of here, and that followed the University of Washington Husky football program as something special, but remembered what it was like in the great years under coach (Don) James," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "It wasn't intentional, but we got this many former Vandals on our staff. I am keeping my eye on them this week. I don't want any game plans faxing up to Idaho this week."
Holt might know the school better than anyone. The fiery defensive coordinator started as a defensive line coach for the Vandals in 1990 and stayed through 1997 before moving on. He returned to be the head coach at Idaho for the 2004 and 2005 seasons, but the Vandals went just 5-18 in those two seasons.
Holt then quickly jetted out of town and returned to working for Pete Carroll at USC.
"I'm sure they were disappointed and mad at the time. It was four years ago, and they've moved on and I'm sure they were disappointed and mad and some of them might have been happy with the change," Holt said. "But you look back on it and it was unfortunate because I loved those kids that we recruited they played their (tails) off for us and I would have loved to see those guys through and see those guys graduate."
Thomas relished the sense of community he experienced during his playing days in the small town. Players got to know the coaches and the residents of the small town. The catalyst for his coaching career was getting to know then Idaho quarterbacks coach Greg Olson and Thomas realizing he wanted to continue with football after his playing career ended.
"It's a unique job and you're faced with a lot of challenges and you have to overcome some of the deficiencies, but that's true with any program," Holt said. "Any experience, whether it's Idaho, whether it's Timbuktu, it's going to help you out."