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Collected Wisdom: Mark Mangino, Youngstown State assistant and former Kansas head coach

Mangino was offensive coordinator on Oklahoma's 2000 national championship team, and then led Kansas to unprecedented success during his eight seasons as its head coach before resigning in 2009 amid allegations of emotional abuse toward players.
by Jason Kersey Modified: October 21, 2013 at 8:00 am •  Published: October 19, 2013

Mark Mangino lives by the simple credo he once heard Bill Snyder say on the headset during a mid-1990s Kansas State football game: “Keep sawin' wood.”

Mangino was an assistant coach under Snyder, and things weren't going well early one game.

Sensing frustration from his offensive staff, Snyder calmly said, “That's OK. Let's just keep sawin' wood. It'll happen.”

The mantra stuck with Mangino from that day forward, and is so ingrained in his mind that he made it his Twitter handle (@KeepSawinWood).

Mangino was offensive coordinator on Oklahoma's 2000 national championship team, and then led Kansas to unprecedented success during his eight seasons as its head coach, including a 12-1, Orange Bowl championship season in 2007.

He resigned after the 2009 season amid allegations of emotional abuse toward players.

He took a few years off from coaching before joining Eric Wolford's staff at Youngstown State. Wolford played under Mangino at Kansas State in the early 1990s.

I grew up in a close-knit community, a steel town, an industrial town in western Pennsylvania. It was a working-class community. Probably 80 percent of the people worked in some type of industrial-related job, whether it was a mill, a factory, the railroads, that type of thing.

You learn the value of hard work. You really appreciate family. Family was very important in that community. Everybody hung together. You did a lot of things with your family. Everybody knew each other.

I always thought I'd work in sports because every bit of free time I had, I was playing football, baseball or basketball. I was just an average athlete. I knew I wasn't a great athlete, but I realized that I really enjoyed the competition, and I liked the coaching aspect.

My teachers in school and my parents would always say, ‘You can't make a living with football; you've gotta do something else. You spend all your time on ball fields.' I heard that a million times growing up, but I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to make a living in sports.

My wife's brother was a Parade All-American and played quarterback at West Virginia under Bobby Bowden. Mary Jane has spent a lot of time in football stadiums. We had that in common. I think to this day, that's the thing that we really share a passion for, outside of our family, is we both enjoy football and baseball.

Over the years, she hasn't been shy about lending me tips. I've come home after many games, and she'd say, ‘You know, you shouldn't have called that play. You shouldn't have thrown that pass on that down.'

I'd joke with her and say, ‘You know, the press conference was over about an hour ago.'

Anybody in coaching knows that your wife has to have thick skin; she has to be able to deal with the ups and downs. We've had some great moments, and we've had some tough times, and she's been steady. She doesn't get too high, doesn't get too low. I think she's been good for me. When you get a bump in the road, she's usually a voice of reason.

When I went in to Kansas, I didn't have any three-year, five-year or seven-year plan. The program was in disarray, and I was just so focused on just trying to take steps.

You hear coaches say all the time — and I know journalists get tired of it; you call it coach-speak — but to be perfectly honest with you, we were a day at a time. We were just trying to get a little better, trying to improve thing.

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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