Kalani Sitake’s ultimate dream job has always been being the head football coach at his alma mater. But when head coach Bronco Mendenhall left the position to accept the same job at the University of Virginia last December, the 40-year-old Sitake wasn’t necessarily expecting to fulfill his dream job so soon. When BYU came calling, you can probably imagine how excited the then Oregon State defensive coordinator was.
“I was fired up,” Sitake told The Jim Rome Show. “It was something you kind of always hope it could be in the future and to have it come this early, especially. I didn’t plan on it being this early in my career, but to have the opportunity to speak with Tom Holmoe our athletic director and just all the people involved with BYU, it was an honor for me and it just worked out I got the job, and I’m very thankful and I’m looking forward to getting going.”
Despite the job coming available to him so early in his career, that didn’t mean Sitake didn’t have confidence in getting the job done at BYU.
“I wouldn’t say that it was too soon. It was kind of like getting married. You know, you’re going to do it sometime in your life. You know you’re not going to do it when you’re 16, but when you get older, it just happens, and for me, this the fact that this came this early, I was really excited about it, but I felt like I’d been prepared by the right people,” Sitake said. “I have three main mentors in my coaching career and that’s LaVell Edwards, Kyle Whittingham, and Gary Andersen. And so being able to be around those men, and have their counsel and advice has been huge for me, and I feel like it’s prepared me for this moment.”
While most head coaches wouldn’t want the first major headline of their tenure to be about a quarterback battle, Sitake sees the battle between Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum as an opportunity to create a culture of competition for the program and explained his simplistic thought process on how the starting quarterback position will be settled, “The way everything should be settled, on the field.”
“The quarterback position’s no different than every position on this team, and I think having those guys settle it on the field and compete against each other and playing the best, and I can go to bed at night and I can look people in the eyes knowing that these guys have settled it on the field and they did it themselves,” Sitake said. “And the quarterback position, we’re very thankful we have great players there. It’s a great problem to have.”
Sitake also expanded on the culture he plans to set with his players, one that displays meekness and humility.
“I look at it like martial arts,” Sitake said. “The first thing they teach in martial arts is how to defend yourself and actually how to hurt and injure somebody else, but the first lesson they tell you is not to engage in a fight in a conflict and to walk away from it.
“The tough guys, to me, are the guys that are willing to walk away from a fight and knowing when to do it and when not to and knowing when to defend themselves. It seems like everything is so sped up nowadays, everybody’s got iPhone’s and looking into their phones, it’s good to have eye-to-eye contact and be able to communicate with people and also be comfortable in your skin and be secure about yourself and so we have to feel that way as a program and we have to feel that way as a team.”