NORMAN — On his way out the door, after being fired at Arizona in October, Mike Stoops had a recommendation for who should take over the football program in the interim. Athletic director Greg Byrne nodded and agreed. Defensive coordinator Tim Kish, widely respected on professional and personal levels, was the choice.
“I think he had the trust of the team and the ability to move us forward through challenging times,” Byrne said Tuesday.
That level of respect from Mike Stoops is the primary reason Kish became an instantly logical choice to join his Oklahoma defensive staff when Brent Venables left last week for Clemson. And now Kish will, officially. He accepted the job Tuesday to become OU's linebackers coach, a position that had not been open in 13 years.
“I value his experience and his understanding of our defensive scheme,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said in a release. “We've been together before, exchanging ideas, and his coaching philosophy has many similarities to what we've been doing at Oklahoma.
“I feel very confident about Tim and I feel that his arrival, along with Mike, will be a seamless transition for both our coaching staff and players as we look to build on the success we've already accomplished at Oklahoma.”
In eight years working with Mike Stoops at Arizona, Kish went from linebackers coach to assistant head coach to co-defensive coordinator to defensive coordinator to interim head coach.
“Oklahoma is getting a great one,” Byrne said. “He's a very good football coach and even a better person. I'll always have the utmost respect for him and his family. I know he'll do a wonderful job working with Coach Bob Stoops and Coach Mike Stoops.”
Kish did not immediately return a voice-mail message seeking comment, though he did speak with Fox Sports earlier in the day.
“I'm tremendously fired up,” the Ohio native said, adding he had known Bob Stoops for about 30 years. “You can imagine how excited I am … to have the opportunity to work with him and come to a prestigious program like this, where you have the chance to win a national championship every year. To be a part of this organization is a pretty special opportunity for me.”
Arizona was 1-5 when Kish took over. It went 3-3 with him in charge. In his first game as the interim, the Wildcats dominated eventual division champion UCLA 48-12. They closed the season with two wins, as well, defeating rival Arizona State and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Byrne said he considered making Kish, 57, the full-time coach before he hired former Michigan and West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez.
“When I was talking to high school coaches in Phoenix about him during the search, they all couldn't say enough good things about Tim Kish,” Byrne said.
In addition to developing quality linebackers, Kish has the calling card of being a solid recruiter in the Southwest and California – two areas in which OU has expanded its reach in recent years.
“I think I'm a great recruiter,” Kish told Fox Sports, “but it's probably just because I spend time and build relationships with these kids and their families.
“I care about as much what they do off the field as what they do on the field. You get what you see with me, so I think they trust and respect what I say to them about the different places that I've worked at.”
It was important to both Bob and Mike Stoops that Kish worked well with Mike. That's not to say, though, that they were always aligned at Arizona.
When Kish was promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2010, replacing Mark Stoops after he left for Florida State, Kish and Mike Stoops sometimes disagreed about the balance of man and zone coverages.
Kish is a proponent of more pressing, and Mike Stoops is generally an advocate of a Cover 2 scheme. In the arrangement at OU, as was the case in Arizona, Mike Stoops will have the final say.
The Stoopses considered a handful of other candidates, including former Ole Miss and South Carolina defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix. Nix, upon a recommendation from Steve Spurrier, was here interviewing Saturday for the position.
Kish, though, was always the frontrunner. Everyone who spoke Tuesday with him noted the excitement level in his voice. Kish's contract is still subject to board approval.