Leading the No. 1-ranked scoring defense in the country gets folks’ attention. Being recognized as the top assistant coach in the nation sparks phone calls. But Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, this year’s Broyles Award winner, isn’t going anywhere, at least not before Jan. 7.
Bob Diaco is focused on his current job, not openings around the country
With a matchup against No. 2 Alabama in the BCS National Championship in Miami on the horizon, Diaco said the excitement in South Bend far outweighs any of the head coaching opportunities that may or may not have been extended his way in recent weeks.
“I’m not trying to be coy in any way,” he said Monday. “One, I really believe that I have the best job — best assistant coaching job in America. I love who I work for; I love where I work. I don’t want to change who I work for, and I don’t want to change where I work. I love my job. Number two, the commitment to the players and the daily process and the focus on that now shifts to Alabama. Because it’s already in our DNA to work that way, it just doesn’t go away. You still stay focused.
“We’re focused on our preparation for Alabama and the national championship game, and I feel like I love the job that I have. At the same time, it’s an honor to be in the conversation. I’m very proud of that and I’m honored by it. I don’t hide or run from that either. It hasn’t been a problem to manage any of that.
The latest rumor is that Wisconsin has been in contact with Diaco after former head coach Bret Bielema left for Arkansas.
“I would imagine that there are opportunities, but I’m not in direct conversation with anyone in the country,” Diaco said. “I haven’t personally heard from Wisconsin.”
At his third stop with Irish head coach Brian Kelly, Diaco said the two have developed a unique bond after five years together.
“It’s Batman-Robin; obviously he’s Batman,” Diaco said. “It’s the best. I know what he’s thinking before he’s thinking it. I’m on it. He doesn’t have to come talk to me. He does, and he can, and he knows I’m not going to be sensitive about it. I can go in there at anytime, day or night, call him on the phone, shoot him a text and he immediately gets back to me or picks it up. His door is always open. There’s nothing I can’t go to him with. I counsel with him on a myriad of different things that don’t relate to defensive structure or personnel.”
If Kelly is the Caped Crusader and Diaco his trusty sidekick, Alabama head coach Nick Saban is supervillian Bane. Through 12 games, the Fighting Irish allowed only 10.3 points per game and led many other categories such as fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (two). The defending-champion Crimson Tide offense has scored 38.5 points per contest through 13 games this year.
A nasty defense is the fruit of a Fighting Irish philosophy that was instilled in 2010.
“The fact of the matter is that, if you don’t set the identity every single day, then somebody else is going to set it for you — Sports Illustrated, the opponent, their mothers, their fathers, the guy down the street, Notre Dame Nation,” Diaco explained. “Somebody is going to set the identity. So we as a staff need to set the identity for the team every day. Our identity on defense is an identity that we’re going to play harder longer. Our players are disciplined in their mental focus on each particular play, the vision is going to be crystal clear and then the fundamentals of the execution of the play — block destruction and tackling and pursuit.”
Diaco said he’s not done helping develop that personality at Notre Dame, but he admits to enjoying the ride this year, when the Irish have taken the biggest leap towards becoming what the staff envisioned three years ago.
“A university with the magnitude of the following that we have, with an expectation of national championships and national dominance, to take over the program where Coach Kelly took it over — which was really, as has been quoted many times by people, almost nationally irrelevant — to turn that back into something that’s relevant is really an awesome thing,” he said.
“The cheering never went away. Notre Dame Nation continued to cheer when they really didn’t have much to cheer about, which is awesome. And now it’s got to be a great feeling for the players in particular, that those people actually really have something to cheer about. They put their interlocking ‘ND’ on and can proudly walk down the street and through the hallways of their workplaces, so it’s fun.”