One of Penn State's most successful coaches liked the idea of the Coaches Caravan. He just wasn't crazy about the mode of transport.
Rose is currently part of the Penn State Coaches Caravan. (Photo courtesy of Penn State athletics)
"I wasn't a bus guy," Russ Rose said. "I said, 'No cigars, no scotch, no way.'"
Penn State's longtime women's volleyball coach has five national championships. He also has a thorough understanding of what makes Penn State fans of all sports tick and the effect that the caravan has had on helping those fans form a connection with new football coach Bill O'Brien.
"There's so many people that care about Penn State football," Rose said Wednesday as the caravan stopped in New York. "It's one of the great properties in college athletics and I think being the new face of a football program really is just an opportunity for people to have some very up front personal contact with him, the same as many of them had over Joe's career. If you're a fan, you're a fan. But it gives them the opportunity to meet him, know what he's talking about and I think it can't be anything but helpful."
Rose was one of the six members of the committee that conducted the search for Joe Paterno's successor this past winter. He, along with athletic director Dave Joyner and the other committee members, vetted several candidates and liked the vision O'Brien had for the program -- the same vision he is trying to get across to alumni via his talks (and PowerPoint presentations) this month.
"One of the things I especially liked about Bill was the things he said about his skills as a coach and what he felt about the Penn State football position," Rose said. "I learned a lot more about the position and a number of people that I talked with, just being on that committee. It kind of opened the door for me to be able to talk with some NFL coaches, general managers and some who's-who's in pros and college football. Everyone really had a certain pattern about what were the strengths of Penn State football. It was good to hear Bill touch on what his vision was for that position."
Rose received a lot of recommendations during the search but wanted to make sure those recommendations would fit Penn State.
"In some cases we were talking about the people they might have been calling and recommending," he said. "And I always made it a point to say, 'Tell me what you know about Penn State football.' So you know what somebody is when they're an NFL coach for an X number of years and you know somebody's records are when they were at some of the major universities in the country, so I knew what some of their pasts were as well. But I wanted to know if they were just hawking their guy or if they knew a lot about Penn State and its strengths and weaknesses as well."
O'Brien spent time on the bus last week with men's basketball coach Patrick Chambers, field hockey coach Char Morett, women's golf coach Denise St. Pierre and track coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. This week, he's hanging with Rose, women's basketball coach Coquese Washington and men's golf coach Greg Nye.
"We have some tremendous head coaches here," O'Brien said Wednesday. "In pro football you don't get that. Pro football the focus is on one thing, and that's football. Here it's more about sharing ideas. … To me it's about being one athletic program."