GUNDY happy in role as coordinator

Wednesday, August 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ With a break or two, Wednesday could have been Mike Gundy's first media day as a head coach. Instead, he went through the day as Oklahoma State's assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, content in his work and glad to be home.

It appeared for a while late last year as though Gundy might be named to replace Bob Simmons as coach. Oklahoma State officials even invited Gundy to Stillwater to tour the new facilities.

``It looked like they were going to give it to me,'' he recalled.

Instead, the offer went to Dirk Koetter of Boise State. Koetter accepted before doing a quick about-face and turning it down, opting instead to become head coach at Arizona State.

Oklahoma State then turned to Les Miles, who said yes and promptly went out and hired Gundy as a top assistant.

``I would have tried to hire Mike wherever I worked,'' Miles said. ``I just feel like Mike was the right fit for Oklahoma State and for me.''

Some people in Gundy's position would have rejected the offer. But not Gundy, who is a Cowboy through and through.

As quarterback from 1986 through 1989, he directed OSU to two 10-win seasons and two bowl victories. He then spent six years as an assistant with the Cowboys before moving on to assistant's jobs at Baylor and Maryland.

His final season with OSU was 1995, which was Simmons' first year as head coach. Simmons hired Miles to be the offensive coordinator, the job Gundy held the previous year. Gundy was named quarterbacks coach.

It could have been a contentious situation, but Gundy and Miles got along fine. The two remained friends after that. Gundy moved on the next year to Baylor, and later to Maryland. Miles eventually joined the Dallas Cowboys as an assistant coach. When Miles made trips to the Washington area, the two would occasionally get together for lunch.

``Every time Les and I were together, he would say, 'If I ever get a head coaching job, I want you there with me,''' Gundy said.

And despite being passed over for the job, Gundy was happy to come home again.

``People say how can you come back when you finished second? I didn't really care about that,'' he said. ``That's not what's important to me. My family's happy here and I'm happy here. That's what's important to me.''

Oklahoma State offered Miles a financial package worth $700,000 annually, but he settled for $400,000 so he could put the difference into the pool used to hire his assistants. He is paying Gundy $250,000 per year, which is one way to make sure there are no hard feelings.

But Gundy has said the salary wasn't an issue. Instead, he said, he was drawn by the chance to return to OSU and be closer to family and friends. The administration's efforts to upgrade facilities were a bonus.

Gundy said he still wants to be a head coach someday. But until then, he's happy where he is.

``This is what I like to do: I like to coach ball, I like to be in this area and I like to work with kids. That's what I like to do, and I'm doing that right now,'' he said.

``I'm not a guy that doesn't have an ego. But maturing, I realize what's important and what's not important. I think we're all better at what we do if we're happy where we're at.''