Gil LeBreton

After 200 games, Patterson still fits winning niche at TCU

TCU Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson gestures to the crowd as he enters the tunnel after the 62-22 win over Baylor at McLane Stadium in Waco, TX, Saturday, November 5, 2016.
TCU Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson gestures to the crowd as he enters the tunnel after the 62-22 win over Baylor at McLane Stadium in Waco, TX, Saturday, November 5, 2016. rrodriguez@star-telegram.com

Just before lunchtime Saturday, Gary Patterson will don the headset for his 200th game as TCU head football coach.

The only names even remotely close to Patterson on the all-time TCU coaching list are Dutch Meyer (201) and Abe Martin (145), who both coached in an era before alumni expected bowl trips and parking lot grilling space.

When Patterson was asked this week if he’d had time to reflect on reaching the 200-game mark, his answer was predictably nonchalant.

“No,” he said, “I’d rather get to 150 wins than worry about the 200th game. That just means I’ve been here a long time.

“But it is a lot of ballgames.”

Some of us are ancient enough to have sat through many of Patterson’s previous 199, as well as the 35 in which he served as Dennis Franchione’s defensive coordinator.

He hasn’t changed much. But then again, so much of Gary Patterson has changed and matured from the X’s and O’s, scouting film-obsessed career assistant that he once was.

He had been an assistant coach at 10 schools before he came to TCU in 1998. When Fran abruptly left for Alabama after the 2000 season, Patterson recognized right away the opportunity that could await.

11 Candidates for the TCU coaching job interviewed by then-athletic director Eric Hyman before Gary Patterson was hired.

For one thing he was a defensive coach and, as Patterson reminisced this week, “You had an opportunity to be a head coach ... and you don’t really give defensive guys many chances.”

His one prior flirtation with being a head coach had been with Southern Illinois, a job that went to his old friend Jerry Kill.

Patterson has joked often that he probably wasn’t TCU’s first choice, either, and he’s correct about that. Then-athletic director Eric Hyman interviewed 11 candidates and had even discussed salary and contract length with former Horned Frogs defensive back Dave McGinnis, who was serving as interim head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

McGinnis elected to stay in Arizona and called Hyman on a Thursday afternoon to inform him. Patterson was introduced as TCU head coach the next day.

As Patterson explained this week, “One of the things was it was a lot closer to my parents in Kansas, being able to see them with them getting up in age.

“I’d also been on the West Coast and been at the Naval Academy on the East Coast. And what I learned out of that is you’d better have a background in all those places and know people to be able to recruit players.”

Patterson felt that the TCU job fit him. And the fit became mutual.

To be honest, I was one of those who publicly wondered about that fit 16 years ago. I didn’t know much about Patterson, other than watching his defenses play.

Patterson felt that the TCU job fit him. And the fit became mutual. To be honest, I was one of those who publicly wondered about that fit 16 years ago.

As he grew, I have to confess that he grew on me.

He found a way to mold his head coaching style around his passion for calling the defense. He had a unique flair for recognizing talent that he could turn into star players at TCU.

He married a local girl. He won the Rose Bowl. He found the Frogs a new old home in the Big 12.

Sixteen years and 200 games later, there is a well-deserved statue of Gary Patterson standing a few yards from where he still works.

As the coach said, that’s a lot of games. A lot of memorable moments.

And one pretty good fit.

Four members of the TCU coaching staff have ties to Oklahoma State, including graduate assistant J.W. Walsh, a Denton Guyer graduate and former Oklahoma State

TCU vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State

11 a.m. Saturday, FS1

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