NEW CASTLE —
Mark Mangino knew when it was right.
Sure, three years was a long time to be out of the college football coaching game he so loved.
Ultimately, though, it was all about time.
He knew time was against him if he stayed away too long. He also knew that time also heals all wounds.
So Mark Mangino bided his time. And last week, he knew the time had come.
And finally, the guy who just wants to coach football is back in the Division I ranks as offensive coordinator at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.
Last year, the New Castle native got an opportunity get his foot back in the college coaching door when his Youngstown State University alma mater offered him the position of assistant head coach.
Sure, it was a bit of a step back for the guy who was national coach of the year in NCAA Division I football just six years ago at the University of Kansas. He was rewarded with a contract extension, but two years later, resigned with four years left on his contract after being accused of verbal abuse toward his players. Mangino and the university agreed to a $3 million settlement.
But Mark Mangino is a smart cookie. The top coaches in the nation remained loyal to him and he was able to remain visible through his continuing friendships them. He accepted invitations to talk some football and appear on the sidelines at places like Oklahoma (where he and head coach Bob Stoops once led the Sooners to the national championship), Ohio State, Clemson and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL. With little fanfare, after taking time to let wounds heal and remain by the side of his wife Mary Jane as she battled breast cancer, he slipped back into the college coaching ranks at Youngstown State.
It was a win-win for Mangino and for YSU coach Eric Wolford, whose team went 8-4, including 5-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Mangino was preparing for a second year at YSU just before Christmas when he got a call from Iowa State head coach and former Pitt assistant Paul Rhoads.
“Paul asked if I would be interesting in coming on board to be his offensive coordinator,” Mangino said. “He didn’t even ask me to come to him, he said he would fly into Pittsburgh and meet with me. That’s somebody who wants you, when they offer to come to you for a job interview.
“We met and had a great conversation and he didn’t formally make me an offer, but he said he’d be in touch. I always said when and if I got back into coaching, it would only be with good people who care about football and do things the right way. I always respected Paul from across the field and philosophically, we think the same way. And that was the most important thing to me.”
After Christmas, Mark and Mangino Jane traveled to Tulsa, where daughter Samantha lives with her family. Son Tommy and his family made the trip from Fayetteville, Ark., where Tommy is a graduate assistant at the University of Arkansas.
“We had just started our celebration with all of the kids and grandkids when Paul called and asked me to fly to Ames. I said, ‘wow, Paul, I just got here with my family, it’s been awhile since we’ve all been here together,’ and he said, ‘never mind, you don’t need to come here, I want you on my staff, let’s make this happen.’
“I didn’t give him an answer, I told him I needed to talk to Mary Jane. She was behind me 100 percent, we still have many friends in Kansas and Oklahoma (from time spent coaching at Kansas State, Oklahoma and Kansas), and we would be closer to them and also we’d be half the distance from our kids and grandkids than we had been. The fire still burns, Mary Jane knows that and I know that. My gut was telling me this was the right thing to do.”
And does Mangino see a head coaching job in his future once again?
“I have never used one job as a springboard to another one,” he said. “I’ve never coached with one foot in the door and one foot out, I coach like I will be there forever. It’s the only way to be fair to the players.
“Would I consider another head coaching job? If something comes along, I would consider it. But if I’m never a head coach again, I’ve had a great ride. My life is complete with what I’ve done already. And now, I’m really looking forward to this chapter that takes me to Iowa State.”