Hawkins big on process over product
"Gandhi didn't take a knee, Martin Luther King didn't take a knee, Thomas Edison didn't take a knee, and I sure as hell am not going to take a knee."
-- Dan Hawkins, 2003
PETER Ruhe is the biographer and historian, and so he knows that while the question may not sound serious, it really is. He's dedicated his life to pondering stuff like this, as chairman of the GandhiServe Foundation. So, yes, he's more than willing to take a sober, academic, matter-of-fact look at Boise State football coach Dan Hawkins' most famous quote.
"On one hand," Ruhe says, "Gandhi was a tough -- nonviolent -- fighter indeed and on the other he always fought systems and peoples' opinions, but never people as such.
"Anyway, we're talking about sports and not -- political, social or religious -- fights. I think the coach had a proper understanding of Gandhi," Ruhe says. But it seems things aren't always quite as clear-cut as football people would have us believe: "Although Gandhi's views were never predictable, as he used to 'listen to his small inner voice,' which gave different answers to the same question at different times."
OK. Gandhi was a complicated guy. So we search onward. Dr. Y.P. Anand is the director, the head man at the National Gandhi Museum in Rajghat, New Delhi, India.
"Mahatma Gandhi would not 'take a knee,' provided the struggle or issue had a righteous, moral, ethical basis," the doc says. "All his struggle was summed up under the title 'Satyagaha,' i.e., 'holding on the truth.' In such a struggle there is no enemy and the struggle is based on principles of truth, nonviolence, fearlessness and self-suffering in order not to defeat but to convert the opponent."
Yes, Hawkins is onto something. What, we have no idea. But there was no way this Gandhi person was taking a knee.
"The great thing about passion is when it's going good, it's great. When it's not, it's a hurricane."
-- Dan Hawkins, Idaho Statesman, Aug. 28, 2005
COURTESY OF BOISE STATE
Coach Dan Hawkins has gone 45-9 at Boise State and his Broncos have won the past three WAC championships.
JEFF CAVES IS the sports-radio talk-show host. He's the former player who stayed in town and has seen everything that's happened since.
So in a way he knows all this isn't quite as new as some of us might think. So he knows what it means when Hawkins insists -- as Hawkins frequently has -- that he isn't the difference here, his presence isn't the greatest thing to happen in the history of the program. No, it's that every player and every team from all those years past have simply been building to this point in time.
People feel the weight of words like those. First, because they're true. Caves rattles the list straight off the top of his head: Junior college national champions. Division I-AA national champions. Twelve conference titles, 13 10-win seasons.
"It's a school of champions," he says.
Still, it goes beyond that. They really believe that Hawkins isn't just smart enough to say all the right things, he believes them, too. Which makes all the difference.
"It's not just lip service," Caves says.
When Hawkins says he has no fear of failure, he backs it up. When he gives credit to his assistants, he's also going the extra mile to get them some extra cash. When he says all the old teams laid the foundation, he's talking as a man who played small-college ball himself.
When he talks to groups of fans, he has them ready to run out onto the blue and into a wall.
This is all just a little different now. These last few years. This coach ...
"To get this town to expect to beat Georgia is saying something," Caves says. "They really did. This town expected to go into Georgia and win.
"Can you believe that?"
"It's that same old thing I always say, 'You lose with potential and you win with achievers.' "
GARY CRANER IS the trainer. He's the man who sees players and coaches when no one is looking. He sees them stripped to their essence, in moments of turmoil and crisis and pain. He's been at Boise State for 34 years, enough perspective to say, "It takes about three years to get a head coach where you want him."
So Craner has seen linemen competing in field-goal-kicking contests, to see if the offense or defense would run. An ice cream truck pulling up right onto the turf. Players hitting golf balls at the equipment man (in helmet and pads, of course) in a scene straight out of "Animal House."
Hawkins has been different, more organized, quieter than other coaches, fun.
Craner has been there when Hawkins has given the guys a quote from, say, Mother Teresa, and tied it to winning when the chips are down.
"He knows what's going on in these kids' heads," Craner says.
"A lot of the kids don't want to disappoint him. That quiet little (word on the side) might hit 'em deeper," he says.
"If he makes a mistake he'll admit he made a mistake," Craner says.
One moment that sticks most with Craner is a postseason banquet, at which Hawkins introduced every member of the support staff, and spouses, and all their kids, too, every family. Knew every name.
Apparently that had never happened to Mrs. Craner before. She's loyal for life.
"You get caught looking back, whether it's good or bad, you're going to run into a barbed-wire fence."
DIRK KOETTER WAS Hawkins before Hawkins was Hawkins. Or at least he would have been. At least we think so. He didn't stick around long enough to find out.
Most in Hawkins' position would have had a couple of good years at Boise State, then moved on to a big-break type of job, the way Koetter did with the Pac-10's Arizona State. But Hawkins has so far defied every expectation, and stayed. This may or may not prove smart. He may or may not be able to keep it going at a mid-major. Most in the business jump for another job when their career arc is -- as coaches say about passes in midair -- at its highest point.
College football coaches believe in birds in the hand. And we've seen ones who let them fly lose their chances, too many times.
"Dan's a family man," Koetter says, as if in major-college coaching, this explains everything.
But it isn't easy. Bob Wagner was flying high once, too, remember. You have to think other coaches look at Hawkins as actually living his gambler image. He's gambling he can keep it going at Boise State. He's gambling he can turn Boise State into the kind of job people used to leave Boise State in order to get.
"Hawk is a unique guy," Koetter says. "He is a big thinker. He's the reason they've elevated that program. He's not afraid to think big and dream big."
He did make the jump before. When Oregon assistant Koetter got the BSU job, one of his soon-to-be assistants told him Hawkins wanted to make the move to Division I after tearing it up at Willamette, where he'd just been NAIA national runner-up.
"Why would he want to do that?" Koetter said. But he took him. Koetter saw something. He knew. This was the man he wanted to help him learn how to be a head coach.
"Have a smile on your face and enjoy the process, and take it as it comes and not flinch when things go bad, and not thump our chest when things go good."
DAN HAWKINS IS the coach. He's won 45 games, lost nine, winning better than 83 percent of his games. He's had three straight undefeated Western Athletic Conference championship seasons, gone 30-2 in WAC games, been a regular in the last Top 25 of the year. He's referenced Gandhi when asked about running up the score.
Everyone has asked him how he's done it. The New York Times, ESPN, on and on. He's tried to explain it again and again.
Now, he's writing a book, and in the introduction, he writes: " ... it's not about the fame, the fortune, the wins, the championships, the NFL scouts, the girls and all the other trappings of success. It's about process over product and the belief that good things will happen and the victories will accumulate if our core values are upheld and the process is allowed to run its course."
That sounds like what the doc was talking about. Hawkins was right. You would have had to have given Gandhi at least a shot at winning the WAC.