Some coaches go fishing. Others play golf. Al Golden's hobby? He's into team-building. He studies successful organizations. He devours inspirational quotes and leadership techniques.
Fittingly, a few months after being hired at the University of Miami, Golden placed a sign in the Hurricanes' locker room. It was a help-wanted ad from 1890, when explorer Ernest Shackleton was organizing the first Antarctic expedition.
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.
Let the journey begin for UM. Already, it has been more hazardous than Golden could have imagined.
In the wake of an NCAA scandal that prompted the suspension of eight players, including quarterback Jacory Harris, the undermanned Hurricanes open tonight with a nationally televised ACC road game against the Maryland Terrapins.
"The ultimate test of you as a coach and of your culture is whether or not they (adhere to it) in tough times,'' Golden said. "You don't know if the levee is going to hold until it rains. There's only one true barometer. By the stroke of midnight, we will know how focused we really are and how we've come through it.''
Golden, who inherited an 0-11 team at Temple University in 2006 and built it into a 17-victory program over the past two seasons, was brought aboard to erase UM's recent mediocrity. His job, obviously, became more challenging when Yahoo Sports reported on Aug. 16 that former UM booster and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro provided impermissible benefits to dozens of players over an eight-year period.
Golden, who wasn't told about an impending NCAA investigation during his hiring, is the innocent victim.
"When it comes to Al Golden, I feel sick,'' ESPN analyst Mark May said. "This is a coach definitely on the upswing, on the fast track to bigger and better things and he really got blindsided by the entire situation.
"If he does it the right way, which I think he will, I think he's going to accept what happens to him from the NCAA. He has to continue to work hard and recruit. The best thing for him now is to win games. Facing the adversity and winning games will be better for him in the long run.''
Golden insists he's committed to UM even though there are persistent reports that his contract contains an "out clause,'' which permits him to leave if there are NCAA penalties.
He's focused on the positives.
"When the University of Miami is right, it's as good (a job), if not better, than any in the country,'' said Golden, who replaced the fired Randy Shannon. "I mean, five national championships, top-50 institution (by U.S. News & World Report), private school, bordering one of the world's most famous cities, it's amazing."
Golden said he's "process-oriented.'' His alarm rings at 4:45 a.m. and he works alone until his staff arrives at about 7. He was Joe Paterno's team captain at Penn State in 1992 and cut his teeth as an assistant at Boston College and Virginia. Born on the Fourth of July, he's something of a throwback. On the sideline, he wears a dress shirt and tie. He's no-nonsense.
"Your message better be consistent,'' Golden said. "You better have a plan and be able to execute it. That's how you develop a culture. I tell them, 'Look, we have 20 hours a week, four hours a day. How do we add up to more? How do we create more value?'
"That's the essence of my leadership philosophy. Let's not just watch film today. Let's find a better way to watch film. Let's not just have a walk-through. Let's find a better way than our peers. Once you have a team that buys in, that is empowered by that, you have a chance to do great things.''
As UM freshman defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo, of Alonso High School, puts it: "Coach Golden knows exactly what he's doing.''
In quiet moments, he leans on his core values.
He recently reflected on the words of John Foster Dulles, who was secretary of state during the Eisenhower Administration.
The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.
"To me, that says it all about building a successful organization,'' Golden said. "If there are problems, we will deal with them and solve them.''