SAN DIEGO — The Rocky Long-Brady Hoke circle is complete.
On Wednesday, Long announced his retirement as San Diego State‘s football coach, after taking the Aztecs to nine consecutive bowl games. He was replaced by Hoke, the Aztecs’ defensive line coach.
Nine years ago, Long was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach after Hoke left for his dream job at Michigan.
Long, who turns 70 on Jan. 27, gave himself some wiggle room by saying he has decided to retire from coaching “at this point.”
“It’s time. I love coaching, but I don’t necessarily love all the things that head coaches do,” Long said.
He seems open to perhaps taking a job as a defensive coordinator somewhere else. Hoke joked that he might recruit Long as the Aztecs’ defensive coordinator.
Long came to SDSU as Hoke’s defensive coordinator in 2009 after resigning as New Mexico’s coach.
“When Brady was nice enough to bring me here, that was probably the luckiest day of my life, as far as coaching goes, because I was looking for a job, and he gave me one,” Long said. “Obviously, it worked out well for him, and it worked out well for me, too.”
Hoke was 13-12 as SDSU’s head coach in 2009-10 and began the school-record streak of 10 straight bowl appearances by getting the Aztecs to the Poinsettia Bowl in 2010.
He then left for Michigan, where he went 31-20 in four years before being fired.
Long brought Hoke back to SDSU last fall as defensive line coach.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Hoke said. “You never get to do something twice that you really want to do in life. I was very fortunate, Coach Long bringing me back, and I can assure you we are going to keep going the direction we are going.”
The Aztecs were 10-3 this past season, capped by a 48-11 victory over Central Michigan in the New Mexico Bowl.
Long was 81-38 and took the Aztecs to a bowl game in all nine seasons.
San Diego State won 10 or more games in four of the past five seasons and won three Mountain West Conference championships under Long.
Long said he told athletic director J.D. Wicker before the New Mexico Bowl that he was thinking about retiring and asked if he could get through the game and Christmas vacation before making a decision. He met with Wicker after Christmas and told him he thought it was the best time to retire.
On Monday, a report surfaced that Long had been at Syracuse talking about its open defensive coordinator job. SDSU tried to soft-pedal that, saying that Long visits other schools annually to discuss his 3-3-5 defense and get feedback that he might incorporate.
“I happened to mention that to a couple of my friends in the coaching business that I was retiring, and all of a sudden I got some phone calls. I’m smart enough to listen,” Long said. “I listened, and a couple of those places I went and visited with. It’s as simple as that.”
What if those discussions continue?
“As of this moment, I’m retired. but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to listen to anything they have to say,” he added. “I’m tired of being the head coach, but I love coaching. The most fun I ever had coaching is when I was coaching the secondary and coaching the defense for Brady Hoke because Brady was the head coach, and all he made me do was coach and recruit. Well, if someone gives me that opportunity again, I’m probably going to take it.”
Many Aztecs fans were upset when Hoke left for Michigan after two seasons at SDSU. Hoke was fired after four seasons at Michigan and returned to the San Diego State staff last fall.
Hoke, 61, said he won’t leave again if another “dream job” opens.
“This is where we want to be, believe me. I made a commitment to J.D., the president, and to my wife,” he said, pausing for effect and drawing laughter.
Hoke said Wicker interviewed him by phone for two hours and in person in Dayton, Ohio. He was offered the job Tuesday night. “This has gone fast,” he said.
“Brady was on the ground floor of this Aztec program, of what we are,” Wicker said. “One of the things that was really meaningful to me was talking to Brady, and he talked about going into his first team meeting when he came back, and Rocky ran the team meeting the exact same way that Brady had run it when he was here. That says a lot about the program.”
Long was 65-69 in 11 seasons as head coach at New Mexico.