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Gonzales tops speculative roster of potential hires (with online poll)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Danny Gonzales, the Arizona State football defensive coordinator, as well as a former University of New Mexico defensive back and assistant coach, has expressed to his friends an interest in the opening for Lobos head coach, the Journal has learned.

Bob Davie and UNM “mutually agreed to part ways,” the school said Monday, making Saturday against Utah State the final game for Davie as the Lobos’ coach.

Gonzales has not communicated with anyone at UNM, he told reporters on Wednesday during a press conference for the ASU’s upcoming game against Arizona. He was asked if he would want to become the UNM coach.

“I’m the defensive coordinator at Arizona State,” Gonzales said. “I do love this place. I was taught a long time ago between Rocky Long and Bronco Mendenhall that when people talk, you always listen. And I think that’s the best thing to do. When you’re wanted, it’s always nice. I don’t chase anything. I haven’t made a single phone call for somebody to get me that job. My name has been brought up for a couple of jobs, and I haven’t made a single phone call and I won’t. That’s not what I do.”

Gonzales, a Valley High alumnus, was not available for further comment in lieu of the holiday and Saturday’s game, ASU said, and that his comments in the press conference regarding his future at ASU will also be his only statement on the topic until after the season.

As far as potential candidates for the UNM football head coaching job go, the list would appear to start with Gonzales, 43. His yearly salary is $525,000 for the Sun Devils (6-5), who upset then-No. 6 Oregon 31-28 on Saturday.

Gonzales’ money and that big win could complicate matters for Lobo fans who want the former UNM walk-on who learned under Rocky Long to return to Albuquerque and resurrect a football program that has gone 8-27 in two-plus seasons and has greatly lacked community/fan support and interest.

A buyout for Davie is expected and the terms are being finalized in time for a Board of Regents meeting on Dec. 10 for possible approval, UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said.

Gonzales’ name also has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the job opening at UNLV, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Several UNM boosters and many Lobo fans have expressed on social media and to the Journal the need for a coach who will connect with the community. Alumni seem to make the most sense.

Terance Mathis, a former All-America wide receiver at UNM who played in the NFL for 13 years, has also expressed an interest in the job, the Journal has learned.

Mathis, who was the offensive coordinator at Savannah State (2011-12), is in his third season as head coach at Pinecrest Academy, a high school in Cumming, Georgia.

Zach Arnett, a San Diego State assistant coach and former La Cueva and UNM player, is also a potential candidate, as for Lobo alumni in the coaching ranks.

Dominic Bramante, the former Duke City Gladiators coach who guided them to Champions Indoor Football titles in 2018 and ’19, initially was reluctant to speak to the Journal about potential candidates for the job because of his respect for Davie. But pressed, he stated that Cleveland High coach Heath Ridenour, who has the 10-2 Storm in Saturday’s Class 6A title game vs. Rio Rancho, should get an interview.

UNLV’s recent failure with Tony Sanchez, a former New Mexico State player and previously a coach of powerhouse Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, could be the cautionary tale that prevents the possibility of hiring a high school coach to take over a Football Bowl Subdivision program.

Bramante said that the next coach must connect with the community and the Southwest, anything to help with recruiting. And Davie showed that winning at UNM is possible. He led the Lobos to back-to-back New Mexico Bowl appearances in 2015 and 2016.

UNM junior tight end Marcus Williams, a former Cleveland High standout, said he told Ridenour to apply for the job in a text on Monday after Williams found out the news about Davie.

“He is capable of doing the job,” Williams said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s proven himself and done a lot on the high school level here. I think he would be a good candidate. He was my coach. I love Heath … It wouldn’t hurt to give him a chance, or get an interview at least. He’s from New Mexico. He knows the culture.”

Asked Wednesday if he’d be interested in the UNM job, Ridenour told the Journal, “100 percent.”

Curtis Modkins, the Denver Broncos running backs coach, is another outside-the-box potential candidate. He was the cornerbacks coach at UNM in 1998-2001 before moving on to Georgia Tech and continuing up the ladder.

Joe Brady (LSU wide receivers coach), Matt Entz (North Dakota State) and Jay Hill (Weber State) are expected to be among the top candidates for coaching jobs that will be open this offseason.

Brady, 30, is also the passing game coordinator for No. 1 (No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings) LSU. Nuñez worked at LSU for 14 years before taking the job as athletic director at UNM in 2017.

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