The call came in on Christmas Day 2007, nearly a week before the Kansas football program would lift the Orange Bowl trophy on a chilly night in South Florida. When David Beaty picked up the phone, he was a second-year assistant at Rice, just two years removed from his days as the head coach at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas.
Beaty had dreams, of course, career aspirations that far exceeded being a college position coach. But it’s fair to say, as he reached for the phone on that day in 2007, the dreams did not include Kansas. He still thought of himself as a high school coach from Garland, Texas.
The man on the phone was Tim Beck, an old friend from Texas and the receivers coach for Mark Mangino at Kansas. Beck was leaving for Nebraska, and he was curious: Would Beaty be interested in taking his job and working for Mangino at KU?
“I’d be interested,” Beaty remembers saying now. “But dude, he’s not going to hire me. I mean, I was at Rice.”
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Beaty can still remember the job interview. He sat down with Mangino, who was far from his reputation as an intense task master. He was plain spoken and matter of fact. They talked about coaching style. They discussed how Beaty would fit on the KU staff. Mangino even displayed a keen sense of humor, Beaty says.
“I interviewed a couple of guys, but he really impressed me,” Mangino told The Star last winter. “I thought he was the guy to go with.”
In the end, the offer came, and in some ways, it set the course for the next decade of Beaty’s career. Two years under Mangino at Kansas; another stint at Rice; a year under Turner Gill at KU; and three years at Texas A&M.
Coaching is a relationship business, after all, an industry of connections and fit. And seven years after first sitting down with Mangino, Beaty’s days at Kansas made him a logical choice to rescue the KU program from the abyss.
“I’m not sure I deserved it,” Beaty says, recalling that first interview. “But he gave me a chance. I’ll be forever grateful to him.”
On Saturday morning, as Kansas travels to Iowa State for its Big 12 opener, their paths will cross once more. Mangino is in his second season as the Cyclones’ offensive coordinator, his first Big 12 job since leaving Kansas after the 2009 season. Beaty is in his first season at KU, fully engaged in college football’s most daunting rebuilding project.
Beaty says he owes Mangino a debt of gratitude for hiring him, and all these years later, the latest KU rebuild has adopted some of the Mangino template. Beaty and Mangino are different coaches with differing ideas about style and offense, of course, but after years of pushing Mangino’s successful tenure into the background, Kansas is re-embracing its most successful era.
Start with the staff: Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen is a former Mangino assistant, and off-field staffers George and Louie Matsakis hold deeps ties to the Mangino days. When you are done with the staff, you can move to KU’s meeting room: On the walls of KU’s Mrkonic Auditorium, Beaty’s staff has splashed the pictures of Mangino’s biggest stars, including quarterback Todd Reesing and cornerback Aqib Talib.
If discussing Mangino — and his messy departure — was ever taboo inside the KU football offices, Beaty has quietly quashed that idea by gushing over Mangino at any opportunity.
“He taught me that there is always another level to push to,” Beaty says. “He always did a great job of guarding against complacency. We paid such attention to detail with everything that we did, with our players and what he did with us as coaches. He made me a better coach.”
If the Mangino influence remains in Lawrence, though, it is less about the on-field schemes, and more about the program’s ethos. When Mangino arrived at Kansas in 2002, his first team finished 2-10 overall and went winless in the Big 12. In the next six years, the Jayhawks would play in four bowl games, including the Orange Bowl glory, and they would do it mostly on the backs of overlooked recruits who played with an edge.
“I think the one phrase that people always have common ground with is ‘Keep sawing wood.’” Beaty says. “That’s probably the thing that we have started with and we are going to continue with.”
At Kansas, of course, there remains plenty of wood to saw. The Jayhawks, 0-3, are in a fragile state as they enter Saturday’s matchup with Iowa State, 1-2, and the layers of program rot run deep. Beaty says he was fully aware of the challenge when he accepted the job, and the task has proven about as tough as anyone imagined. Beaty, though, can take solace in one thing: Not too long ago, the Kansas program was winning. If he needs a template, he only needs to look back seven years, to his first year under Mangino.
“Listen, I hate losing,” Beaty says. “I do not like it, at all. However, I understand that everything is a process and we understand it’s a process, and part of the process is learning to stay positive in the eyes of adversity.
“To borrow from Coach (Mangino), we are going to keep sawing wood and that’s the way they are going to get this thing done.”