SEATTLE (AP) — Game week finally arrived for Kalen DeBoer and he felt the need to fire off a text to a colleague to try to encapsulate the nine months between his hiring at Washington and the beginning of the season.
“That text was, ‘It’s gone really fast, but when you think about how much you’ve done in that time, it’s been a little bit of a grind, too,’” DeBoer recalled.
The recipient of the text was Chris Petersen, who knows a thing or two about what it takes to step into the head job at Washington and eventually find success.
DeBoer has had a long list of tasks to accomplish since November 2021 when he was announced as Washington’s head coach. He inherited a program coming off its worst year since 2008 that included the firing of head coach Jimmy Lake before the end of the regular season.
The first test of how well DeBoer has done comes Saturday night when the Huskies open the season against Kent State.
“It feels different. Could hear the band outside my office getting ready and that felt like a game atmosphere right there this morning,” DeBoer said. “So we’re excited but there’s been a lot of work that has gone into this and I’m excited to see our guys reap the rewards of it.”
The season opener will be DeBoer’s debut as a head coach at a Power Five program. He was a successful head coach at the NAIA level and the past two seasons at Fresno State, where the Bulldogs went 12-6 during his watch, including 9-3 last season, and landed DeBoer on the radar of larger programs.
Just because the stage has changed, doesn’t mean the approach or the demeanor needed to.
“The thing you can appreciate as an assistant coach, I think that’s why you find a lot of the guys that are here working for Kalen, is just the consistent approach and demeanor that he has. Guys want to work for him," co-defensive coordinator Chuck Morrell said. “I think when you feel that sense of responsibility to the head coach, that’s going to make you want to make sure you’re doing your damnedest every single day you walk in the building. I think that’s a level of respect that a lot of this coaching staff has for him."
While DeBoer has his coaching staff completely on board and a roster talented enough to be competitive in the Pac-12, another part of his job is winning back a fan base that has soured on the team the past two seasons.
Washington played its abbreviated 2020 season without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 season spiraled from the start — with the Huskies losing to Montana in the opener and at Michigan in Week 2 — and eventually led to Lake's firing during just his second season.
DeBoer’s outreach has been significant, from bringing in former players to continued contact with Petersen. Washington even took out an ad in “The Seattle Times” last weekend with a letter from DeBoer. A little old school, but still a notable gesture.
Ultimately, it’s winning that will be the best impression DeBoer’s team can leave on the fan base.
“Honestly, the number one thing is just find a way to win. I mean that is the most important thing; just find a way. Going into a first game — it isn’t just because I’m here,” DeBoer said. “I think that’s the way I’ve felt wherever I’ve been. I’m always real with our guys and they’ve seen that. I’m not going to tell them the other team’s awful if they’re not awful. If the team’s really good if they’re not. I’m going to be real upfront. We just have to find a way to win and be ready to adjust.”
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