A lot has been said leading up to and following the departure of Gus Malzahn as the head football coach at Auburn.
The one thing that is consistent, though, is the type of man Gus was. Through and through, Gus was a family man. An Auburn Family man.
While at Auburn, Gus always had the respect of his locker room and players. There was never a moment in which the players stopped fighting and giving it their all for Gus.
Even in the last game of his coaching career at Auburn, after a lengthy COVID-plagued season where the players could have easily thrown in the towel, they went to Mississippi State and fought.
And after the game, they danced. If you didn’t see the video of Gus dancing, with his signature visor backwards, I highly encourage taking to Google and finding it. It’ll bring a smile to your day.
Obviously, we didn’t get to see everything that goes on behind the scenes, but every time you saw the locker room after a win, there were memorable moments.
There were a lot of “BOOMS!” and you could tell by the looks on the players faces that they loved playing for that man and they were having the time of their lives.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
That’s why the social media reactions to the news of Gus being fired as head coach were so strong.
Almost all the players sent out messages that Sunday, Dec. 13, but two really stuck out.
Starting safety Smoke Monday wrote this message to Gus on his Instagram: “This one right here hurt me dawg he did so much for me change my life gave me the opportunity to play d1 ball gave me the opportunity to be me he taught me so much about life not just football he is a real family man and I will always love and support him no matter what love you coach.”
And former Auburn linebacker K.J. Britt had this to say on Twitter: “In 2020, I found out something most of these coaches don’t care about their players, just the money. Find another college coach to care about their players as much as @CoachGusMalzahn did for us and I’ll be a fan. It’s bigger than a record, it’s more in a locker-room than a record.”
While I personally did not interact with Gus as much as his players or some of the other, older writers, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Gus on a personal level.
The first time I met Gus actually came back before I worked at The Plainsman. The Sunday before my first ever day of classes at Auburn in 2018, one of my friends on the football team was able to get me a friend or family pass for their practice.
I attended the practice and stood off to the side with the rest of the players friends and families.
When there was a short break in practice, Gus came over and spent time talking to everyone there, recognizing most of them and checking in on how they were doing.
Obviously, Gus and I had never met. Nonetheless, he came over and introduced himself and did his best to get to know me in the short amount of time we had.
He could tell I was not only nervous to be at practice and meeting the head football coach, but when I told him I had moved across the country to attend Auburn, I was nervous to start a new chapter of my life. Gus could tell that just by looking at me. He reassured me that everything would be great. He told me I made one of the best decisions of my life and that while my family was back home in Montana, my Auburn Family was right here and will help me out.
After joining The Plainsman and becoming a member of the Auburn beat, continuously attending Gus’ weekly press conferences, Gus was nothing but respectful.
There was never a moment Gus didn’t treat every reporter with respect. You never saw videos of Gus going on a rant about the media, blaming a player for a loss or anything like that.
No matter what, Gus took accountability. Even when he’d field questions about whether or not he deserves to be on the hot seat or be the head coach. He stood in and answered them taking accountability for not performing to the standards he, and this program strive to be at.
Just a few days after Gus was fired, Auburn basketball head coach Bruce Pearl met with the media to preview the team’s next opponent, Texas Southern, and also talk a little about Gus.
He considered Gus one of his friends and the “leader” of all the athletic coaches on campus.
“Yesterday was a tough day here on campus. And I just, obviously, being an old ball coach, you hate to see another old ball coach leave the program,” Pearl said. “And so, I have so much respect for Gus and Kristi and that coaching staff and that family. I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve absolutely taken their lead. Gus has been the leader of our coaches. You know, people don’t give him near enough credit for how he did lead our coaching staff in so many ways. He is a dear friend. I feel fortunate to be his friend.”
Pearl continued to talk about how much Malzahn meant to the school.
“He understands the job as well as anybody. And nobody had a higher expectation for Auburn football than Gus Malzahn. Nobody. Even our most passionate fans. Gus expected to win national championships, compete for national championships, and he held himself to that standard. So, therefore, in talking to him, I think he has an awful lot to be proud of for what they accomplished. I always admired how he always had his locker room. How his kids loved him. They played for him.”
Pearl took the time to reflect on one of his first moments with Gus.
“Gus came in and talked to my team, my first year,” Pearl said. “My first year was like varsity and JV. I’m sending my guys out there, and they are just talking about being outnumbered. He came into my locker room before we went to the SEC Tournament, and he told our guys how much he enjoyed watching them play and compete knowing they were outnumbered. After that talk, we went to Nashville, and we won three games and I think his talk had a lot to do with it.”
The different stories of Gus as a person could go on forever.
At the end of the day, the reason Gus was fired was not because he wasn’t a good person or a good coach, it was because he wasn’t consistently competing for championships.
Gus elevated the football program as a whole at Auburn to have a standard of consistently competing for championships. He was not a bad head coach by any means, but he was unable to keep up with the standards he created at Auburn.
Whether or not the move to Bryan Harsin as head coach will work remains to be seen, but the reason he’s here is to consistently compete for championships.
A program standard unprecedented before Gus.
So, when you look back at Gus’ tenure at Auburn, be thankful. Gus will go down as one of the better coaches in Auburn’s history.
He raised the bar, and he did it the right way.
Thank you for everything, Gus.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman