He left Lawrence under a wave of controversy. But nearly three years later, after some time off and reflection, former Kansas coach Mark Mangino appears ready to return to coaching.
Ina story published Thursday
in The Oklahoman, Mangino said his return to the sideline has been delayed by his wife’s battle with breast cancer. Mary Jane Mangino was diagnosed last year, Mangino said.
“My family comes before the game,” Manginotold The Oklahoman
. “It's helped me get things in perspective, too. She's joked with me, ‘Winning and losing football games isn't really a matter of life or death is it?' “I said, ‘No, it's not. It's not.'”
In Mangino’s last season at Kansas in 2009, the Jayhawks began the year 5-0 before losing their last seven games. The season wasmarred by accusations
that Mangino treated players improperly. KU launched an internal investigation. And Mangino spent the final weeks of the season in limbo, before resigning under heavy scrutiny and pressure.
Mangino claims to have not had any contact with officials or players in the program since he left. But his fingerprints remain on the roster. KU has a collection of fifth-year seniors, including receivers Daymond Patterson and Kale Pick and offensive linemen Tanner Hawkinson and Duane Zlatnik, who were part of KU’s first recruiting class after its Orange Bowl victory in January of 2008.
After Mangino's departure, Lew Perkins, KU’s athletic director at the time, turned the program over to Turner Gill, and the Jayhawks are just 6-24 since the beginning of the 2010 season.
“I have had no contact with anybody in the program since I left,” Mangino said. “Do I follow them? I wouldn't say I go out of my way to follow the team, but I do have a place in my heart for the kids on the team that played for me or were recruited by me.
"I would love to see them have some success. ... I have no ill-will toward the football program or the players at Kansas.”
Mangino, who finished 50-48 in his time at Kansas, came to Kansas from Oklahoma in 2001. Two of his former employers will collide on Saturday in Norman, Okla. Mangino, meanwhile, appears set on hitting the restart button. He told The Oklahoman that his wife's health is more stable, and she's even provided some guidance.
“She's given me a directive: Go find a coaching job,” Mangino said. “So we'll see what happens. I don't know where it will be. Could be anywhere.”
Maybe an assistant at a big school? A head coach at a smaller institution with less pressure? For now, it’s tough to know. But one thing is clear: Mangino believes he’s changed after leaving Lawrence in 2009.
“It has really woken me up and my priorities have changed,” Mangino said. “But don't think I ever lost the desire to win. That's still something that's very, very important to me.
“How I go about it ... I think I'll change that course a little bit the second time around.”