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Auburn's Gus Malzahn says he's in no hurry to become a head coach

The Tigers' offensive coordinator, who turned town an offer to become Vanderbilt's coach, would like to take that step 'somewhere down the line,' however.

January 08, 2011|By Gary Klein and Bill Dwyre

Reporting from Scottsdale, Ariz. — Gus Malzahn turned down a chance to take over as coach at Vanderbilt a few weeks ago. Maryland also reportedly flirted with him.

In between, Auburn made Malzahn the highest-paid assistant coach in the Southeastern Conference, more than doubling his salary to $1.3 million annually and extending his contract.

On Saturday, after the Tigers' final full practice before the Bowl Championship Series title game against Oregon on Monday, the coordinator who brought Auburn's offense to life said that "somewhere down the line" he would like to be a head coach.

"But I'm in no hurry," he said.

Based on his career trajectory, it won't be much longer.

Malzahn, 45, is five years removed from coaching former USC quarterback Mitch Mustain and ex-Trojans receiver Damian Williams at Springdale (Ark.) High.

All three went on to Arkansas in 2006 but left after a stormy season under then-coach Houston Nutt.

Malzahn landed at Tulsa and oversaw the nation's top-ranked offense in 2007 and 2008.

Gene Chizik, hired as Auburn's coach before last season, asked Malzahn to bring his fast-paced, no-huddle offense to the Tigers. Two seasons later, school offensive records have been broken, quarterback Cam Newton is the Heisman Trophy winner and Auburn is playing for the national title.

Mustain, for one, is not surprised.

"I don't think he's any different now than when he was coaching us," Mustain said in a phone interview. "That's just what he does. He's the most detail-oriented coach I've ever seen. I'm not surprised at all."

Mustain, preparing for USC's pro day workout this spring, and Williams, who just completed his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans, will be at University of Phoenix Stadium to see if Malzahn can help Auburn win its first BCS title.

Asked if being in this position was something he dreamed of, Malzahn was typically understated.

"You know," he said, "I was pretty excited to be in the [high school] state championship game, to be honest with you. I really never dreamed this specifically. But it is a real special thing for me to be a part of."

Goodbye, and good luck

Oregon Coach Chip Kelly said his team's demeanor was no different two days before the biggest game in the program's history than it has been all season.

"Their mind-set today reminded me of what we've been like on the other 12 Thursdays," he said.

Kelly praised former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who on Friday was hired to coach the San Francisco 49ers.

Stanford gave Oregon one of its toughest tests before the Ducks pulled away for a 52-31 victory. Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck announced this week that he will return for his junior season.

"I applaud Jim," Kelly said. "I love competing against him. He did an unbelievable job when he was at Stanford and I know he'll do a great job in the NFL."

Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti's name has been floated in reports as a possible replacement for Harbaugh. Bellotti hired Kelly to be the Ducks' offensive coordinator in 2007.

"I support Mike if he wants it," Kelly said. "He's a hell of a football coach too."

Asked if he would like to coach against Bellotti, Kelly said: "I don't care who we compete against. We play faceless opponents."

Quick hits

NCAA investigators interviewed two Atlanta-area contractors in connection with an investigation into the recruitment of Newton, FoxSports.com reported. The contractors were listed on city permits for work to be done on a struggling church owned by Newton's father, Cecil, the website said. In December, the NCAA found that Cecil Newton violated rules with his involvement in a pay-for-play scheme that was presented to Mississippi State. … It has been some 37 days since either team played. Just about everything that can be broadcast and written in advance has been. That left the hometown newspaper, the Arizona Republic, to lead its front page with a big picture of a man painting the stadium field.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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