Brady Hoke retires on his own terms

Brady Hoke with Connor McBride on Senior Day in 2021. McBride is currently a teacher. (Paul Garrison/EVT)

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Brady Hoke leads the Aztecs against UNLV. Credit: Don De Mars/EVT

Early Monday morning, San Diego State University announced the retirement of head coach Brady Hoke, effective at the end of the season. On Monday night following practice, Hoke spoke with the media to talk about his decision.

“It is emotional because you love what you do,” Hoke said. “I got the greatest job you could ever have teaching young men and helping develop them, their character, and the culture we want to have. So, that’s the tough part. We’re competitive, so we love the game also, but it’s time.”

Earlier in the evening, athletic director JD Wicker went on the Jon and Jim Show on 760 AM. There, he spoke about the months-long conversation that he’s had with Hoke and how, ultimately, this was Hoke’s decision. Hoke echoed that sentiment that his retirement was a long time in the making.

“No,” responded when asked if the university forced him to leave SDSU. “It was time to move forward. I think if I stayed too long, I don’t think I would ever leave. So, it was just the right time to do it.”

Hoke spoke about getting to make up for “time lost” with his wife, Laura, and daughter Kelly. He noted that he has kept the grueling hours of the coaching business for 42 seasons. Unlike most in the profession, he is leaving on his own terms. It was important to him to finish the final two games of the year.

Jesse Matthews on Senior Night with Brady Hoke. (Don De Mars/EVT)

As the Aztecs turn their attention to Hoke’s replacement, the remarkable job he did in establishing the current culture at SDSU should not be forgotten. Prior to Hoke’s arrival on the Mesa in 2009, the Aztecs’ best record in the previous decade was 6-6 in 2003. Among the high points of his first tenure was bringing Rocky Long to San Diego and leading SDSU to its first bowl victory since the 1969 Pasadena Bowl.

Facing Covid and playing in Carson, CA, for two years when he returned to the top job in the program in 2020, he found a way to keep the culture he created intact. Hoke led the Aztecs to the best record in school history in 2021. In doing so, he joined Urban Meyer as the only coaches to lead three different programs to eleven-win seasons since 1996.

Given the success he has had wherever he’s been, the outpouring of support and well-wishes on social media was hardly surprising. Below is a small portion of those messages.

Current safety Cedarious Barfield said, “Amazing coach, leader, teacher, and person.”

Cade Bennett echoed the sentiment, “Appreciate everything you’ve done for me, Coach!! Great man will be missed.”

Ross Douglas Sr, the WRs coach with the New England Patriots, said, “Forever grateful for you, Coach Hoke! You gave me an opportunity to play at the University of Michigan and taught me many valuable lessons that I still apply to my daily life. Finish strong and enjoy retirement.”

“I’ve seen some of that,” Hoke admitted. “We’ve been breaking down San Jose. I’ll give my phone to Laura when I get home, and she’ll read everything. She will tell me everything.”

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Brady Hoke coaches the defensive line in a practice in 2022. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Wicker said he hopes to have the next hire in place within a month. Sources say Wicker plans to meet with the leaders on the team with hopes of keeping as many current players as possible. Wicker is looking to match SDSU’s success in replacing Hoke as the school had following his first tenure. It’s a feat Ball State and Michigan could not match.

Ball State went 6-18 in two seasons under Stan Parrish immediately after Hoke left. It took Jim Harbaugh seven seasons to better Hoke’s best year at Michigan. Hoke finished 11-2 and won a Sugar Bowl in 2011.

“Being out here (on the practice field),” Hoke said when asked what he will miss most. “The kids in general, but coaching on the field, developing guys. I think that’s my strength as a coach.”

Wicker said this afternoon that the contracts of the current assistants will be honored, and he hopes they will have a chance to interview for spots on the new staff. Hoke said if that opportunity is there for any of his current lieutenants, he will “try and talk them into doing it.”

“There’s a loyalty when you’re a head coach to your assistants,” Hoke explained. “One (Kyle Hoke) is family. Kurt (Mattix) and I have been together a lot of time … Kevin Wolthausen – Kevin is our defensive analyst. He’s my age, so we’ve been doing it a long time and doing it together…. And also, the people in recruiting that we have … this decision affects a lot of people, and believe me, I’ve thought about that. It’s probably the hardest thing is missing the kids but missing the people on staff.”

Hoke met with his players and staff this morning to let them know of his decision. His message was simple.

“Hey, it’s time for me to retire, but you’re not going to get rid of me yet because we have two games to win.”

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