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Gary Andersen proves you can go home again; 'excited' to rejoin Utah staff, be close to family

SALT LAKE CITY — Gary Andersen is back with the Utah Utes. The former defensive coordinator, who went on to become the head coach at Utah State, Wisconsin and Oregon State, has accepted a position at his alma mater. He’ll be rejoining the staff as an associate head coach and defensive assistant.

The hiring becomes official Jan. 9 when the NCAA allows coaching staffs to expand from nine to 10 full-time assistants.

“I’m honored that Kyle (Whittingham) would want me to come back after all those years and I’m excited to help him,” said Andersen, who left the Utes after the 2009 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. “I’m excited to help the kids in the program. I’m excited to help the staff. I’ll give them everything I’ve got.”

Andersen added that having coached at Oregon State (2015-17) he understands how competitive, tough and hard the Pac-12 is as a conference.

“I’m excited to be part of that staff. It was fun for me to get back and see the commitment that Utah has with football,” Andersen said. “You recruited against them for years in the Pac-12 and it’s obvious that they recruit at a high level. I’m excited to be involved in that side of the recruiting thing.”

Until a couple days ago, Andersen had never been inside the Eccles Football Center. Whittingham took him on a tour of the facility.

“It’s very, very impressive,” Andersen said.

Things are a lot different, obviously, since Andersen played center for Utah in 1985 and 1986. This will be his third stint on the coaching staff. He was the defensive line coach under Ron McBride from 1997-2002, adding the title of assistant head coach the last year.

Andersen then left to become the head coach at Southern Utah. In 2004, he was hired by Urban Meyer to be Utah’s defensive line coach once again. From 2005-08, Andersen served as assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach under Whittingham. The Utes led the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2007 and were among the Mountain West Conference leaders in numerous categories during his tenure.

“We’re looking forward to Gary rejoining our staff,” Whittingham said in making the announcement. “Gary brings a wealth of high-level coaching experience to the program, including serving as the head coach at two Power 5 schools. During his previous time on our staff, he developed some of the best defensive linemen in Utah history. In addition, he is an excellent recruiter and motivator and understands what it takes to win at this level.”

Including his time at Southern Utah (2003), Utah State (2009-12), Wisconsin (2013-14) and Oregon State (2015-17), Andersen is 56-61 overall as a head coach. He led the Aggies to the Western Athletic Conference title in 2012 and the Badgers to a berth in the 2014 Big Ten Conference championship game.

Andersen unexpectedly resigned as coach of the Beavers on Oct. 9, 2017, giving up a reported $12 million that was due on his contract. He declined to comment on the Oregon State situation, opting just to discuss his move back to Utah.

Andersen expressed excitement to be back in the room with defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley and defensive line coach Lewis Powell, two players he helped coach earlier in his career.

“It’s been fun to watch them grow and develop in coaching,” Andersen said. “I’m excited to coach with them.”

Same goes, he noted, for working with cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah and linebackers coach Justin Ena.

Although Andersen hasn’t been in a meeting with them yet, he said it just feels very comfortable to be part of the staff.

“I want to help them and do whatever I can, whatever my position is going to be coaching the defensive side of the ball,” Andersen said. “I’m excited about that opportunity to help that defensive staff.”

Andersen said he's eager to get back to coaching and work with kids. During his brief time away from the game, he and his wife, Stacey, checked out a few places and opportunities.

“It was a no-brainer that Utah was, quite frankly, the only place that I wanted to come back and coach and do what I’m doing right now,” Andersen said. “I’m just excited to be back and be part of it.”

In particular, Andersen is looking forward to getting to the players in the program. He’s received a lot of texts welcoming him home from past Utes he coached.

Andersen insists he won’t have any problem not being the boss after spending the past nine seasons as a head coach.

“I’m not an ego guy and I never have been,” he said after noting that Whittingham is well established. “I’m truly excited to get back to a position coach-player relationship. I think that will be good for me and I think and hope it will be good for those players.”

As for casting a tall shadow given his résumé as coach, Andersen doesn’t think it’ll be an issue. He thinks it’ll come down to how he presents himself. Andersen is confident those who don’t know him well will discover he doesn’t have an ego and his agenda is to do all he can to help Utah do all it can to compete at a high level and get to a championship. He wants the kids in the program to grow academically, socially and from a football standpoint.

“That’s it. That is my agenda,” Andersen said. “They’ll see very quickly that I’m a team player. If they don’t have that understanding now, they will very quickly.”

When asked about being a head coach again, Andersen insists his agenda is to move into his office and get to know the kids in his position group and on Utah’s defense. Assisting the coaching staff and helping recruit is also in his plans.

“I’m not worried about the future,” he said. “I’m worried about getting down and coaching at Utah.”

Whittingham has yet to decide exactly what Andersen’s coaching duties will be. However, Andersen said he’s ready to do whatever is asked.

“I’ll be very comfortable wherever he decides he wants me to be,” he explained. “Even as a head coach I had an opportunity to coach some positions. I did that at Wisconsin. I did that at Oregon State. So I’m excited to coach wherever he wants me to coach.”

Andersen had high praise for Scalley and the job he’s doing as defensive coordinator.

“Absolutely. Morgan and I had an opportunity to talk the other day and it was a great conversation. It was great to hear his voice,” said Andersen, who joked that he felt old hearing how fast Scalley’s children were growing up.

The 53-year-old Andersen added that Scalley was doing a tremendous job.

“He stuck with what Utah is and that will never change,” he said. “The ability to play with the toughness and the physicality, you always want to be able to carry that with you at Utah. But I think he’s also evolved into the dynamics of his specialty within the back ends.

“So I think the numbers speak for themselves and Morgan’s very capable of functioning and handling that defense,” Andersen continued. “If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be in that position. Obviously Kyle has great faith in him and I’m excited again to be part of that staff and be in that room. I think it will be good and hopefully I can bring some things to the table.”

The bottom line, though, is Andersen is making the move to get back close to family. It’s especially good for Stacey, who will be closer to her mother.

“We’re fortunate. Things kind of happen for a reason — a spot that came up that was exactly what she was looking for,” Andersen said. “It was important for me. This girl of mine has given a lot for 30 years, so I really wanted her to be happy and be in a position to where she’s excited about the future.”

Andersen noted there was a time where she was worried about him.

“There’s no doubt. But she knows what I wanted to do and I wanted to get back into it,” he explained. “And the ability to be back and close to home for her is great and the ability for me to be back close to my family is very exciting.”

The Andersens have purchased a home in the Murray area, where both of them grew up.

“It’ll be fun to be back there,” Andersen said. “No doubt about it."


Twitter: @DirkFacer