Football coach Darrel "Mouse" Davis is widely considered to be the architect of the modern run-and-shoot offense.
"Architect?" Davis said, laughing. "I once tried to make a door, but I sawed off the wrong side, and it didn’t fit. That’s your architect."
Davis, who was hired as a UH assistant coach yesterday, is better suited to rebuilding the Warriors’ offense. Although his job description is to coach the receivers, Davis’ primary function will be to serve as mentor to Nick Rolovich, the Warriors’ first-year offensive coordinator.
"I’m happy to be back," said Davis, who was a UH assistant from 2004 to 2006 during a five-decade career in which he was head coach in four professional leagues. "I’m good friends with Gregory" – he pointed to UH head coach Greg McMackin – "plus, I like Hawaii. I like the kids. I like Nick. Nick’s the right kind of guy. If he weren’t the right kind of guy, I couldn’t do it. I hope it works out for everyone. What the hell, I hope it works out for me."
McMackin promoted Rolovich from quarterbacks coach in February, replacing offensive coordinator Ron Lee. Last month, Lee announced his resignation, opening the way to hire Davis.
Despite Davis’ lengthy experience, McMackin did not consider having Davis and Rolovich flip-flop roles.
"Never," McMackin said, noting Rolovich called the offensive plays the final 12 games of the 2009 season. "Rolo did a great job. I believe he’s a great coach."
McMackin said Davis, offensive line coach Gordy Shaw and running backs coach Brian Smith will contribute to crafting the game plan, but Rolovich will call all of the plays.
"We don’t meddle," McMackin said. "If a guy calls the plays, he calls the plays. He doesn’t want people talking in his ear while he’s trying to call a play. Now, when there’s a timeout, he’ll talk to several guys, figuring things out. It’s a strategic thing. But there’s only one guy who makes the (offensive) calls, and that guy is Rolo."
Rolovich said he welcomes input, adding, "if I don’t use the resources I have, then I’m an ignorant coach. Mouse is a great coach. I’m going to use him."
When it comes to offensive theories, Rolovich said, "we’re kind of like second cousins."
Both share the belief that the run-and-shoot offense – which features four receivers running routes based on the defensive scheme – should emphasize passing. It was a dispute in philosophy with Portland State head coach Jerry Glanville, a former UH defensive coordinator, that led to Davis’ resignation as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator after the 2008 season.
"He couldn’t stop anyone," Davis said of Glanville, who called the Vikings’ defensive plays. "He wanted to be able to slow the game down. He wanted (the Vikings) to run the ball more. I said, ‘OK, how about this: ‘I’ll run the ball more, but every time I run the ball more, you blitz.’ He said, ‘I can’t do that.’ I said, ‘OK, good luck,’ and I quit."
But Davis remained active in the game, teaching at football clinics across the country. Asked how he remained healthful at age 77, Davis said: "What’s that?"
When the question was repeated, he again said: "What’s that?"
Then he broke into his familiar roar of laughter. "Just messin’ with you," he said. "I ride the bike, and lift weights, light weights. Fifteen-pound weights are heavy for me."
He also finds ways to tinker with an offense that has set passing records at every level. In 2006, Davis encouraged UH head coach June Jones to incorporate the shovel pass into the four-wide offense. That season, the Warriors averaged 559.2 yards and 46.9 points per game.
Davis said he does not mind when coaches tweak his offense.
"That’s part of the deal," he said. "People have to try to continue to get better. Do they always get better? Not always. Sometimes I’ll have high school coaches send me tapes of how they changed the offense, and I’m like, ‘Geez. What is that?’ But, hey, if they’re winning, that’s OK."
Davis said he implores many of his disciples, including Jones, to hold true to the "guts" of the four-wide offense.
"It’s important that you get the basics, and then you can build off of that," he said.
As for the name of the offense, he said, "I kind of call it the run-and-shoot because everyone else does. But I always thought it should be called the double-slot-with-motion offense. That’s what I thought. But a newspaper guy told me, ‘yeah, that’s real catchy.’ I just gave up. They called it the Silver Stretch (in Detroit). That’s OK. It doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s still 11 guys trying to get the ball in the offense. Would that be a catchy name?"