Q&A with new Temple head coach Matt Rhule
PHILADELPHIA -- It's lunchtime in the Temple football offices, and first-year coach Matt Rhule is talking about broccoli rabe. Outside on the corner of 10th Street and Diamond Street in North Philly, there are yoga studios popping up in the neighborhood where tenements used to be.
Rhule, 38, isn't letting Temple lose its edge. He's been sleeping on the couch in his office for the past month while his family closes on a home in South Philadelphia. And few know the drastic overhaul the program has undergone better than Rhule; as a former Temple assistant, he helped Al Golden raise the Owls from such a pitiful state that Rhule said passersby would throw rocks at players during practice. (Golden referred to the revival as a "revolution," and Rhule had Che Guevara as the screensaver on his computer for years in honor of that term.)
Golden brought the program to respectability both on and off the field. Then Steve Addazio, who has since left for Boston College, delivered its first bowl win in 30 years. What will the next phase look like?
"I was watching Florida Gulf Coast last night," Rhule said on Monday. "I said to myself, 'I want a football team that plays like that.' Those guys were having fun."
Amid the revolution, Rhule became an area foodie, as his rabe came atop a hot roast pork sandwich from DiNic's in Philadelphia's Reading Terminal. His favorite local spots are Osteria, Parc and Amada -- not bad for a guy who met his wife, Julie, while working as a fry cook at Chili's in State College. (Julie, a waitress at Chili's at the time, is now a dietician who works at Temple.)
Rhule spent last year as an assistant with the New York Giants and the previous six in a variety of positions at Temple on both sides of the ball. After walking on at Penn State, Rhule took the decisively non-silver spoon route to becoming a head coach. He's worked everywhere from UCLA as a grad assistant to Buffalo to Western Carolina.
Along the way, he learned the importance of personal touches, so he added a barber chair in the locker room and, on Monday morning, had his coaches play a 7-on-7 football game in the driving snow. (The film clips of the game were chopped up and shown to the players, who reveled in them.) Rhule's energy and connection with the players have resonated as his early trademarks. His staff jokes that he drinks 18 cups of coffee a day. (Julie wishes he drank more water.)
An over-caffeinated Rhule sat down with SI.com for a wide-ranging interview that touched on Temple's opener at Notre Dame, the things he learned from Joe Paterno, the Tao of Tom Coughlin and the origin of the term "pro-spread" offense, among other things.