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Mike Gundy Opens Up on Bryan Nardo’s Hire in Expansive Interview

Gundy said he couldn’t stump Nardo in his interview.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Mike Gundy said he drew up some “kind of unrealistic” scenarios for Bryan Nardo during Nardo’s interview to become Oklahoma State’s next defensive coordinator, and Nardo’s answer to those scenarios went a long way in him getting the job.

It wasn’t that Nardo perfectly found the way out of the pickle Gundy placed him in, it was his approach in finding a way to the answer.

“I couldn’t stump him,” Gundy told Dave Hunziker in a recent podcast. “Very confident in his approach and his delivery in his interview. I would put stuff up on a board that I knew was kind of unrealistic. I said, ‘Well, we’ve seen this before. What are you gonna do?’ He says, ‘Well, I’d have to study that. How good is the quarterback? How skilled are they on the perimeter? I gotta take that away first, then I’ll do this.’

“But it wasn’t just like he said, ‘I got the answer.’ I’ll tell you what I liked about him, he said, ‘I’m not sure, but I’ll figure it out.’ … Stuff I was putting on the board for him, there really wasn’t an answer. I just wanted to see what he would say. And he’d say, ‘Well, can the quarterback run? OK, well than that’s an issue. Can he not run? Then I’m not worried about that, I can do this.'”

Nardo will be Oklahoma State’s third defensive coordinator in as many seasons, and he will do so after taking a major leap up the coaching ranks from Division-II Gannon to Big 12 Oklahoma State.

Gundy is no stranger to an outside-the-box hire, with the most notable example before Nardo being Mike Yurcich, who Gundy hired as an offensive coordinator from D-II Shippensburg. After leading prolific offenses at Oklahoma State, Yurcich has gone on to coach at Ohio State, Texas and Penn State. Even Jim Knowles wasn’t the sexiest hire when it happened. Gundy plucked Knowles from Duke, and after Knowles’ 2021 OSU defense led the Cowboys to a Fiesta Bowl win, Ohio State came calling.

So, when it comes to out-of-nowhere hires, Gundy has earned the benefit of the doubt, especially when he knows what he is after. With Nardo, Gundy was after an expert in odd-man defensive fronts.

Gundy said OSU communicated with every odd-front coach he had knowledge of. He said he talked to people about Nardo who said they weren’t sure how Nardo would stack up in terms of all the stuff outside of coaching at a Power Five level, but what he did find out is Nardo knew his Xs and Os and his relationships with his players were outstanding. Out of all those talks with all those odd-front specialists, Gundy said Nardo was the last interview.

“It wasn’t a courtesy interview because I knew we could learn from him because he’s got some Iowa State in him, he’s got a little bit of Gibby [Tony Gibson] out there at North Carolina State, he’s got a little bit of him in him,” Gundy told Hunziker. “He’s doing some different things, so I said, ‘Let’s bring the guy down and interview him. We can learn from him for sure.’ And selfishly for me as a head coach, it’s a great contact to know a guy that’s in his early-to-mid 30s that’s an up-and-coming guy, so you kind of have somebody on deck. That’s how it got to the point. Then we flew him down. We all went in there and grabbed him, took him to the hotel. And six hours later, I said, ‘This is the best guy. This guy is the best guy for the job.'”

The rest of OSU’s staff has stayed in place. There are long-tenured coaches on Gundy’s staff. Guys like Joe Bob Clements and Tim Duffie were both considered candidates when Knowles left after the 2021 season, so when Derek Mason announced he would take a coaching sabbatical after one season as OSU’s defensive coordinator, the stability a guy like Clements would provide seemed like an easy choice from the outside. But, with Gundy wanting to change schemes, he took what some would consider a risk in bringing in a coach unproven at the Division-I level. If history has anything to say about that risk, it might not be all that risky.

“We have an experienced, good defensive staff, but they don’t know the odd front,” Gundy said. “And I wanted to make the move to the odd front and then ease back into the even front. There were guys on our staff that wanted to job and that were qualified for the job, but not in the odd front. So, it would be unfair to Oklahoma State football for me to put somebody in that position when they don’t really know it.

“I don’t know how to build a bridge, so I wouldn’t want someone to make me the facilities director for them over here building a bridge down the street. It’s not gonna work. Maybe it could’ve, but I have to make decisions based on what’s best for Oklahoma State football. That’s my job.”

You can listen to Gundy’s full interview with Dave Hunziker here.

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