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Stoops: No hard feelings with Akina, no rush to hire replacement

Mike Stoops says he'll take his time, if needed, before hiring a new secondary coach.
Photo by Chris Morrison, US-PRESSWIRE

Arizona Wildcats coach Mike Stoops says there are no hard feelings over the departure of secondary coach Duane Akina, and that there weren’t any broken promises on his end.

Akina departed Monday to return to Texas, which he had left in mid-January to return to Arizona, where he coached for 14 years under Dick Tomey. Akina cited family considerations.

“You gotta do what you got to do when it comes to what’s best for you and your family,” Stoops said. “I have no hard feelings. I understand.”

Stoops laughed.

“Hopefully, I got him a raise.”

Well, that probably happened, too, as it was Texas coach Mack Brown who pursued Akina last weekend after Akina’s replacement, Jerry Gray, took the job as the defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. Gray was hired at Texas for $425,000, about $100,000 more than Akina made with the Longhorns last season.

Brown called Stoops to let him know of his interest in re-acquiring Akina, and Stoops said the whole process was handled in a professional manner.

“Mack was great. He’s a good guy,” Stoops said.

“I’m not going to keep somebody from doing what they want to do. I understand. Mack’s trying to get the best guys, just like we are. He didn’t want to lose Duane in the first place.”

Stoops said there was no conflict with Akina over a coaching title, as has been suggested on various message boards. Stoops said Akina wanted the same titles he had at Texas — secondary coach and assistant head coach. That was the plan at Arizona, Stoops said, although that second part had yet to be announced.

As for Akina’s replacement, Stoops said it’s just as easy to find high-quality assistant coaches in mid-February as it is right after the season, and that he is no hurry to make a hire. Arizona returns graduate assistant Ryan Walters, who directed the secondary in preparations for the Alamo Bowl after Greg Brown left for Colorado.

“I like what Ryan Walters does with our secondary,” Stoops said. “He was teaching Duane a lot about what we do. We’re fine. I’m going to look at all those options.”

Walters is one of those options.

“Sure,” Stoops said. “He’s under serious consideration.”

One of the options not under consideration is moving defensive ends coach Jeff Hammerschmidt to the secondary. Hammerschmidt was an All-Pac-10 safety at Arizona and has coached defensive backs at other schools.

“There are good guys out there. A ton of good guys,” Stoops said. “There is no shortage of calls on my phone. My phone is blowing up.”

Arizona’s spring practice begins March 16.

Akina, in a press release from Arizona, said Monday: “I’m not happy that I had to put both of these institutions in this situation. It’s been a tough month for me and my family making these decisions. Any time you have younger children, it becomes a very difficult decision and that was the driving force behind this decision.”

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