Danny Gonzales introduced as new Lobo football coach - Albuquerque Journal

Danny Gonzales introduced as new Lobo football coach

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Danny Gonzales was introduced as UNM’s new football coach during halftime of Tuesday’s Lobo basketball game in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

After weeks of speculation, the Lobos have made the call.

And they decided to go with home-grown talent when choosing a new head football coach.

Danny Gonzales, a former University of New Mexico assistant coach and player, will become the 32nd head coach of the Lobo football team, replacing Bob Davie.

Gonzales, 43, a Valley High alumnus, has spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Arizona State University, where he also was promoted to assistant head coach before this season began.

This will be Gonzales’ first job as a college head coach.

Contract details weren’t immediately known.

UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez made the official announcement at the men’s basketball game Tuesday night at Dreamstyle Arena — The Pit.

At halftime, the public address announcer asked fans to remain in their seats for a special announcement as the lights went dark.

Nuñez, standing at the center of Bob King Court with a spotlight on and a microphone in hand, then introduced Gonzales as the new coach of the Lobo football team to a loud ovation as he and his family made their way down the Pit ramp.

Once on the court, Gonzales took the microphone and started his UNM tenure as football coach with, “I’m home.”

Gonzales then talked about his time as a player, when the Lobos went to a bowl game, and then as an assistant, finishing second in conference play four times.

Now, he said, he’s back to “get the job done.”

He then walked around the court, shaking hands with fans and left the arena with Nuñez without any formal media interviews.

Gonzales will be introduced at a news conference on Wednesday.

Danny Gonzales, a former UNM assistant coach and player, is set to become the Lobos’ 32nd head football coach. He has been Arizona State’s defensive coordinator for the past two seasons. (Source: Arizona State athletics)
Danny Gonzales, a former UNM assistant coach and player, is set to become the Lobos’ 32nd head football coach. He has been Arizona State’s defensive coordinator for the past two seasons. (Source: Arizona State athletics)

Gonzales has been selected to rebuild the Lobo program, which last appeared in a bowl game in 2016 and has gone 8-28 since then. Nuñez announced Nov. 25 that Davie and UNM had agreed to part ways. Davie went 35-64 in eight seasons at UNM.

Gonzales had told friends he was interested in the opening. He grew up a Lobo fan, and as a child he watched games at then-University Stadium, now Dreamstyle Stadium.

Now he’s hoping he can fill that stadium with fans, a tall challenge given that around 2,000 showed up for the season finale. The Lobos lost the last nine games of the 2019 season. In total, the team won two games and lost 10.

The news that Gonzales would become the Lobos’ coach came soon after he met with reporters following the Sun Devils’ practice. ASU (7-5) faces Florida State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso on Dec. 31.

“The ability to win is what drives me in this business,” Gonzales said, according to the Arizona Republic. “I said it 100 times, I hate losing more than I enjoy winning. That’s really sad because winning is really fun and it’s really hard to do in this game. But I can’t stand losing. If you don’t have the ability to win, this job ain’t worth it. So in order for me to take a job, you have to have the ability to win. I’ve stood my ground on what it requires (at New Mexico).”

And he said what it requires is paying assistant coaches and spending money for academic support and recruiting.

“If you don’t have that, it makes it almost impossible to win,” he said. “Those are the things at New Mexico that would need to be stepped up.”

Danny Gonzales, center, was an assistant coach at the University of New Mexico. He worked with the safeties, kickers and deep snappers from 2005-08. (Tina Larkin/Albuquerque Journal)
Danny Gonzales, center, was an assistant coach at the University of New Mexico. He worked with the safeties, kickers and deep snappers from 2005-08. (Tina Larkin/Albuquerque Journal)

ASU coach Herm Edwards on Tuesday described Gonzales as “obviously one of the great young defensive minds in the country.”

“I would like to thank Danny for all that he has done for this program in just these last two seasons,” he told the Arizona Republic. “We had a vision in mind when we arrived in Tempe, and he was pivotal in helping turn that vision toward fruition.”

Rocky Long, a former UNM coach who now has the head job at San Diego State, was Gonzales’ mentor and coached him when he played for the Lobos. Long predicted 13 years ago that Gonzales would someday become the Lobos’ head coach.

“Danny has a lot of abilities,” Long said at the time. “He’s really smart. He’s got great work ethic. He loves the players. He likes football. He loves the University of New Mexico.”

Long will be in Albuquerque Wednesday, as his San Diego State squad will play Central Michigan in the New Mexico Bowl at Dreamstyle Stadium on Saturday.

Gonzales walked on at UNM, where he was a punter and safety. He first played under Coach Dennis Franchione and then under Long during his senior season in 1998.

Gonzales started his coaching career at UNM as a defensive graduate assistant from 1999-2002. Before the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, in which the Lobos faced UCLA, Gonzales talked about the importance of how players perceive a coach.

“We were good in ’97 (when Gonzales played for Franchione), and nothing against the other staff because they were all great coaches, but we started to lose the feeling (even before Franchione’s departure). There was a lot of speculation early on in the season that Fran was going to leave. Coach Long … everybody knows he wants to be here.”

Even then-UNM trainer David Binder took notice of the young freshman when he first joined the team.

“Every day he came and played hard,” Binder said in an interview years later. “Every day he tried to get better. … He always wanted to be a Lobo.”

During a game in his senior season, Gonzales showed a coaching temperament. He talked to a teammate who he thought wasn’t giving enough effort.

“When he came off the field, I started yelling at him,” he told the Journal, “I told him if he wasn’t going to play hard, we’d get someone else who can.”

Gonzales was the Lobos’ video coordinator from 2003-05.

From 2005-08, Gonzales worked with the safeties, punters, kickers and deep snappers at UNM.

Before ASU, Gonzales worked at San Diego State for seven seasons, his last year as the defensive coordinator with Long.

While looking for a coach to replace Davie, Nuñez reached out to Long more than once for advice.

In 2018, Gonzales’ first season at ASU, he oversaw a defense that allowed the fewest points (332) since the 2012 season.

There were several highlights in Tempe this season, with a signature moment coming in an upset victory over then-No. 6 Oregon, 31-28, on Nov. 23.

Journal assistant city editor Ed Johnson and Journal staff writer Geoff Grammer contributed to this story.

Journal assistant city editor Ed Johnson and Journal staff writer Geoff Grammer contributed to this story

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