Gators' Muschamp will face many coaching friends
GAINESVILLE - The jokes started right away when Will Muschamp was hired as the new football coach at Florida. One of his best friends is Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and the two share ownership of a beach home in the Panhandle that they have taken turns enjoying for many years. Now what? Well, they've continued to share the house but they won't be sharing secrets any more. And Muschamp can be forgiven if he feels a little lonely this coming fall, especially around Nov. 26 when the Seminoles visit Florida Field. Fisher has said many times he's thrilled his old buddy is a head coach — no matter where.But he's not the only close friend who won't be giving Muschamp much encouragement during the season. The former Georgia defensive back was an assistant under Alabama coach Nick Saban at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins, and he was on both staffs with Tennessee coach Derek Dooley. Muschamp will see old buddy Dooley in Gainesville on Sept. 17, when his Gators face the Volunteers on national TV. And he'll get to visit with Saban again on Oct. 1, also in Gainesville, when he leads the Gators against the Tide in another huge SEC contest. Muschamp's new job means a lot of old friends will have to adjust to that uncomfortable feeling of wanting to beat each other up. Every coach has a friend or two they have to defeat from time to time to have a big season, but Muschamp is in one of the strangest of situations — a quarter of Florida's games will be against some of the most influential people in his life. Fisher won't be trading many secrets and Saban can't really help his old pupil because he will be trying to beat him for the SEC title. The same's true for Dooley. How will all these old friends handle all the intense competition? Even they seem a little uncertain. "Will and I are really good friends," Dooley said. "We worked together for five out of the seven years, he came the second year I was at LSU and left the year before when I was at the Dolphins. Obviously, assistants who are together that long … become pretty close. You spend a lot of time together so Will and I really, as we branched out, stayed in touch. When I was at Louisiana Tech and he was at Auburn and then Texas and when I got the job at Tennessee we spoke probably every week or at least every other week last season. So it will be a little change this year." Muschamp realizes this first year is going to be different for him in many ways, but he vows that friends will remain friends, no matter what happens on Saturdays. "I've got a lot of friends that I have a lot of respect for as a football coach," he said. "But our families are friends and when you work together and you spend so much time together as assistants you become close and your families become close because your wives become widows a little bit throughout the season, as hard as we work and the hours we work." Muschamp also is quick to credit his former head coach as a major reason he's sitting where he is now. "Obviously we had a lot of success at LSU," he said of his days under Saban. "And I think that as you move forward, certainly Nick's success in the NFL, at Alabama, certainly has helped us because you know people want the blueprint." Saban's respect for Muschamp always will be strong. "Will is one of my favorites, in terms of all the guys that we've ever had the opportunity to work with," Saban said. "He's got great principles and values personally, and philosophically as a football coach. He's a really hard worker, very enthusiastic, has a leadership quality about him that really affects people in a positive way, especially players. "I think he'll do a really good job as a (head) coach. He's done a really good job everywhere he's been."