The phone rings at 10:15 on a Tuesday night and Mark Mangino says hello.
Mangino, the former Kansas coach, now Iowa State’s offensive coordinator, is calling to talk about his new life in Ames and an upcoming test against Kansas State, but before he gets to any of that he apologizes for his timing.
“I know it’s late, but my night is just getting started,” Mangino says. “We’re only one game into the season, so I’ve got lots of Kansas State games from last year to look at. I’m grabbing a cup of coffee right now, and then it’s back to work. I want to watch as much as I can before I get in early at 6:30 tomorrow.”
Mangino is back to putting in the long hours he did during his rise up the coaching ranks, from K-State assistant to Oklahoma coordinator to Kansas head coach, because that is still what he thinks gives his team an advantage.
But he is a different coach now. When Mangino went 50-48 and won the 2008 Orange Bowl during seven seasons at Kansas, ultimately resigning over allegations of player mistreatment, he was stern with media and hard on his team. He was often seen screaming at players on the sideline and he rarely smiled when the microphones were on.
He seems more laid back today.
“I am a probably a little more patient than I used to be,” Mangino says. “I listen more and talk less, but I still talk. I don’t think that much has changed with me as a coach. I have a passion for it and I approach it with a lot of enthusiasm. I still enjoy what I’m doing. There are people who tell me I have changed. Maybe they recognize those changes better than I do.”
The changes started for Mangino during a three-year hiatus from football. After leaving Kansas, he moved to Florida with his wife, Mary Jane, and stood beside her side as she beat breast cancer.
As her health improved, Mangino began to travel the country and visit with active coaches. He attended practices and swapped notes everywhere. He felt welcome soaking up their knowledge.
But when he decided it was time to get back in the game, he encountered a culture that isn’t big on granting second chances. Instead of returning as a head coach or even a coordinator for a power-conference team, he accepted a job coaching tight ends at his alma mater, Youngstown State.
Somewhat surprisingly, he loved the change. After one season, Paul Rhoads hired him to his staff at Iowa State.
“I am having a lot of fun being involved in the nuts and bolts of coaching a position and coordinating again,” Mangino says. “I like focusing on the details in one aspect of the game. It has kind of been refreshing for me. It has been fun and it has gotten me back to the grass roots of coaching, which I enjoy. It has been a great experience, and I really do enjoy it here at Iowa State.”
So much that he rattles off Ames positives like a tour guide.
“It reminds me a little bit of Manhattan back in the ’90s,” Mangino says. “It’s a great college town.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder remembers meeting Mangino twice before his return to coaching, once as a sideline guest during a 2011 victory at Miami, and then in his office in Manhattan.
Facing his former assistant again doesn’t come as a surprise.
“My thoughts were, after visiting with Mark before he went to Youngstown State, was that he was anxious and ready to get back,” Snyder said Tuesday afternoon. “I think he enjoyed his time up there, and he just wanted to continue to move. … I was pleased for him to get back into it.”
The pleasantries will be put on hold until after Saturday’s game at Iowa State, though.
K-State started its season with a 55-16 victory over Stephen F. Austin, while Iowa State lost 34-14 to North Dakota State. On paper, the Wildcats seem like an obvious favorite. But anything can happen in an early conference game.
Mangino knows his offense needs to produce at a higher level to give the Cyclones a chance. They started strong last week, scoring touchdowns on two of their first three drives and taking a 14-0 lead. But top receiver Quenton Bundrage suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the season. Starting center Tom Farniok also didn’t play in the second half, but he is expected to play against K-State.
Iowa State went scoreless the rest of the way, but Mangino refuses to use injuries as an excuse.
“We got to get better,” Mangino said. “I know that. We have to play better, I have to coach better. We found out some things about ourselves. We have to build on the positives and try to limit the negatives.
“Part of college football, unfortunately, is injuries and we have to have the next people in line ready to play at a moment’s notice. We have to be able to excel under those conditions. I have to do a better job of getting them rolling when we face adversity. We ran into adversity and we didn’t handle it very well.
“The one thing I will say is, I feel badly for the injured player. Quenton was becoming the player he really wanted to be. He had improved his route running, he was catching ball well and his blocking was fantastic. He actually got hurt blocking. I feel for him. But that’s part of the game and we have to be able to move on.”
Perhaps his familiarity with K-State will help him devise a gameplan that allows Iowa State to do exactly that.
He has a long history coaching in the Big 12. He’s happy to bring a new approach to a familiar place.
“We have done this all before,” Mangino said. “I have coached against Kansas State and Oklahoma. I am going to coach against Kansas State and Oklahoma again, and I will coach against Kansas. It’s an old story and there is not a lot of pop to it. The only thing I am focused on is winning.”