Former Pitt head coach Todd Graham says he’ll bring ‘high-octane’ system to Arizona State

By Lauren Kirschman

Pitt fans are probably feeling a little bit of deja vu after listening to former Pitt head coach… Pitt fans are probably feeling a little bit of deja vu after listening to former Pitt head coach Todd Graham’s introductory press conference at Arizona State.

Arizona State announced Graham as its new head coach Wednesday afternoon. In his first press conference as a Sun Devil, Graham used some familiar phrases, speaking of building relationships with players, a high-octane offense and the “Sun Devil way.”

“Players know if you’re genuine, they know if you care them,” Graham said. “We’re going to treat our players with tremendous respect…I’m a hands-on coach. I’m about hands-on relationships. That’s our whole deal is building that relationship.”

Graham didn’t meet with his players before leaving for Arizona State. Instead, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Graham asked Pitt’s assistant athletic director to forward the news of his decision to leave for Arizona State in a message to the players that read:

“Please text this to players please: I have resigned my position at Pitt in the best interest of my family to pursue the head coaching position at Arizona State. Coaching there has always been a dream of ours & we have family there. The timing of the circumstances have prohibited me from telling you this directly. I now am on my way to Tempe to continue those discussions. God Bless, Coach Graham.”

In the press conference, Graham addressed the Pitt players. He said the speed of the circumstances didn’t allow him any other option.

“The last few hours have been extremely gut-wrenching for me,” Graham said. “I love those guys. I’m very proud of the growth that they had this year both on the field and off the field…You never want to leave a program and I never dreamed I would have to leave under these circumstances.

“I reached out to them the only way I knew how…I absolutely did not want them to hear about this on the news…The only other alternative was to not talk to them at all [and] that wasn’t an option for me.”

Graham said he plans to reach out to the team when he returns to Pittsburgh.

The head coaching position at Arizona State is the first job he’s ever taken that benefited his wife, Graham said, and called it a “dream situation.” He said the two always planned to retire in Arizona and that his wife’s parents live there. He added that they vacationed to the state regularly and that some of their best friends live in Arizona.

“This is the only opportunity that my family would endure what they just had to go through,” Graham said.

He added that he wouldn’t have taken any other coaching job.

“I don’t shy away from high expectations,” Graham said. “I know exactly what I’m inheriting and the expectations here.”

Graham told Arizona State what to expect from his system and used several almost identical phrases from when he arrived at Pitt in January.

“Our offensive is going to high-octane, quick striking, explosive,” Graham said. “I like to see what ball thrown down the field.”

He added that he “[doesn’t] want people in their seats” and that he is “going to work hard to earn [the players’ trust]” and that “trust is earned.”

Arizona State president Michael M. Crow said that the Sun Devils’ search has been carried out over several weeks and that they were focused on finding the right talent. He added that Graham was the first coach that the school focused on.

“Our door was been beaten down by people wanting to coach the Sun Devils,” Crow said.