Barry Odom and Kendall Briles
If the Arkansas Razorbacks’ 9-4 finish last year, including a resounding Outback Bowl victory over Penn State, wasn’t proof positive that third-year head coach Sam Pittman has a good thing going On the Hill, then the loyalty displayed by his defensive and offensive coordinators Barry Odom and Kendall Briles in turning away other — likely more lucrative — job opportunities this winter speaks volumes.
Following the example of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, who picked up the procedure under Alabama coach Nick Saban, Pittman is the primary coaching voice heard by the public out of the Razorback program.
It’s a one voice, one heartbeat type of thing.
No mixed messages to the fanbase, but perhaps more importantly, it allows the coordinators and coaches to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively by taking media responsibilities off their plate.
However, Pittman allowed Briles and Odom to meet with the media last Saturday following practice, and it gave fans a different peek into the program that certainly was appreciated.
I love hearing from coordinators and assistants. Where the head coach takes a macro view of the program, it’s the micro information that only an assistant can offer that allows me to see what’s going on at a position more clearly.
However, the key message from the rare interview session with Odom and Briles spoke volumes about Pittman and his leadership. The head Hog has created a player-centered, work environment that these two talented, experienced, and desirable coordinators enjoy working and competing in.
Certainly their compensation helped keep them in place, but both could’ve gotten more cash elsewhere — Odom turned down head coaching opportunities. However, at the moment, there is satisfaction enough in what they are creating within the Razorback program, and Northwest Arkansas is a special enough place to keep them rooted with the Razorbacks.
There will come a time when Odom and Briles will move on. Collegiate coaching is a transient lifestyle, to say the least. It could be as soon as next winter?
But as an observer who has watched a revolving door of coaches, coordinators, and assistants within the Razorback program for the last decade or so, it’s nice to have as much stability as possible within the Razorback program.
Pittman’s leadership is to be applauded for crafting an environment in which coaches value the benefits of staying out rather than moving on.