The Tigers needed a culture change and that is precisely was newly named head coach Brian Kelly brings to this program. Demanding excellence from his players both on and off the field, it’s clear the style Kelly brings to this Tigers locker room.
In Kelly’s introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon, he detailed the culture he looks to build in Death Valley, the alignment of this program and building relationships with his players to develop trust.
It’s clear the Tigers needed a change at the head of the table to lead this team and that is exactly what athletic director Scott Woodward did by bringing in Kelly. A winner in every facet of the game, he was the ideal figure to come to Baton Rouge.
“His vision for what LSU football can become is the same as ours,” Woodward said. “He's not here to simply fit into our culture, he's here to transform it. Most importantly, his expectations for LSU football are the same as ours. He's not just here to win; he's here to win championships.”
Kelly has the winning pedigree the Tigers need at the helm of this program. Instilling good habits in his players and developing trust is where Kelly feels he can change the trajectory of this program in order to have everyone buy in.
“Culture for me is standards, right?” Kelly said. “Everybody throws culture around like it's this SAT word, but to me it's hard work. It's standards. It's habits. It's a way of life. You know, we're going to build that every single day. It's going to be a grind. But we're going to embrace it because it's going to be who we are on a day-to-day basis. That's going to be LSU football.”
Alignment of Excellence
Kelly mentioned the word “alignment” quite a few times Wednesday afternoon. Whether it be the alignment of the program that Woodward is developing or grow his own, it was a key statement he kept making known.
“I think it just comes down to for me an alignment about excellence,” Kelly said. “That's what I'm about. Excellence in academics, excellence in academics and athletics here at LSU and seeing that, feeling that, and now knowing that we can go off together and fulfill that goal.”
It’s been made known just how important academics are to Kelly. With success in the classroom comes success on the field and Kelly has harped on that since he’s become a head coach. Despite the SEC being so highly-touted for both coaches and players, it ultimately came down to the message Woodward pushed to Kelly on what this university is about as a whole, not just football.
“The SEC, we know about its prowess in terms of success and the players and the teams and the coaches,” Kelly said. “But I will say this: If LSU did not have the alignment and the leadership and the people and the desire for excellence, the SEC doesn't really matter to me. It's this university that happens to be in the SEC that matters to me the most.”
Ultimately it comes down to relationships for Coach Kelly. Developing relationships with his players and staff, it’s the engine that keeps a program going. To grow relationships with his players is what will make this team so successful; it’s what has made his past teams reach the heights they were able to get to.
“I've been called a players' coach, a CEO, demanding, whatever narrative you want to come up with,” Kelly said. “I think I've hit all of those. Look, I think the most important thing is you'd better have relationships with your players and you'd better know your players. You'd better know their strengths and weaknesses. You'd better be able to have the ability to reach your players and communicate with them and be demanding but never demeaning.”
Accountability. It’s what Kelly stresses to his players. The type of coach Kelly can be labeled as is many things, but instilling discipline and accountability in his players is the main message he wants to get across to this program.
“This football team will have self-discipline and they'll have accountability,” Kelly said. “They'll have trust in each other, and that will be what you'll see from this football team as we continue to build.”