By Monica Lee
GoHuskies.com Contributing Writer
SEATTLE - The transition to a new coaching staff can be worrisome and stressful, but Chris Petersen and his company aren’t starting from scratch.
“It’s a great group of men and great teachers,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith said about his colleagues.
“Most of us here have experienced working with each other and then with Coach Pete, so we’re going to hit the ground running.”
Smith and every other coach, besides tight ends coach Jordan Paopao, have worked with Petersen for at least two seasons prior to coming to Seattle. Their connectedness and overwhelming respect for the new head coach is a tremendous advantage for Husky football’s future.
“You don’t have to come together, get a bunch of different philosophies and ideas and talk about how you’ve done it here, how you’ve done it there,” wide receivers coach Brent Pease said.
“We know how to do it because it’s all been done. The way we’ve done it in the past.”
The success of how it’s been done in the past is attributed to the type of character Petersen exhibits.
“He’s a great head coach,” assistant head coach and linebackers coach Bob Gregory said. “He’s a guy you really want to work for. He’s just a good person to begin with. He’s a family guy, he understands that aspect.”
Gregory will be entering his fourth year as an assistant to Petersen and is a Pac-12 veteran. A graduate from Washington State and Oregon and former coach at Cal and Oregon, Gregory has participated in three conference rivalries: The Civil War (Oregon/Oregon State), The Big Game (Cal/Stanford), and The Apple Cup.
“I love this rivalry,” he said about The Apple Cup. “It is going to be different being on this side, believe me. All my Husky buddies are fired up and all my Cougar buddies are giving me a hard time, so it’ll be fun.”
Defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake is returning to UW for his second stint with the Huskies. Lake held the same position in 2004.
“It’s great to back. My family loved Seattle when we were here before,” Lake said. “Last time everyone told me not to take the job because it was under dire circumstances, but at the end of the day, it ended up being a great situation for me because I met a lot of contacts that helped me throughout my NFL career and in my college career.
“And you learn a lot through adversity, so even though a lot of people told me not to take that job years ago, it ended up being a plus.”
The Eastern Washington University graduate knows this time is going to be a much better situation.
“I’m with a head coach that I admire, that I still take notes from daily. He’s just a great man to learn from, not only just football-wise, but also off the field stuff, so I’m very, very pleased to be with Coach Petersen,” he raved.
Paopao, who has also experienced Husky football under different leadership, is ecstatic to start a new era with Petersen.
“It really is his proven track record of winning, but I think his insistence on the overall development of kids, not just necessarily as athletes, but as upstanding people, I think is an unbelievable deal and something I’m fired up to be a part of,” Paopao said.
“He’s an upstanding, very upfront kind of guy. He was that way while he was considering hiring me and I really appreciate that.”
Another pull for the assistant coaches to work with Petersen at Washington was the beautiful city of Seattle and the boisterous atmosphere of Husky Stadium.
“I’ve coached up here probably three or four times over the years and one thing - it’s always been loud,” associate head coach/offensive line coach Chris Strausser said.
“That was a challenge for us game one this year and it was game one back in 2007 as well – just to have to deal with the crowd noise, so that’s impressive.
“And obviously the facility, what they’ve done here. The stadium is phenomenal.”
In the short amount of time the new coaches have had with their team, they already can tell they’re going to have a great season with some great kids.
“After what happened with them, the transition when (Steve) Sarkisian left, and watching how they played in the bowl game, tremendous. They played great,” 23-year coaching veteran Pease said.
“And then really, to come back in our first team meeting, be on time, and for kids to come up and say, ‘Hey, we’re ready to take this thing to the next level,’ they’re the ones taking the initiative. It’s really about them; it’s not about the coaches. They’re the guys that are going to make this thing happen.
“I think it speaks volumes about what they are as football players, students, and the goals they want to reach. I mean I’m impressed, I really am.”