TAMPA — Mike Golden and Skip Holtz have been nearly inseparable over the past 13 years, so it's no real surprise that the East Carolina strength coach has been named to the same position at USF, reuniting with Holtz for their fourth stint together.
"We work very good as a team together," Golden, 42, said Tuesday, one day before he starts at USF. "We're on the same page, and there's a lot of mutual trust. We want the same thing: to make the average player good and the good player great."
Golden was working for a high school when he was first hired by Holtz in 1998, his last year at Connecticut, and he followed him for Holtz's last three years at South Carolina, then all five of his seasons at East Carolina.
Much as nearby family played a role in Holtz liking Tampa, Golden said part of what makes USF a good fit for him is that the family of his wife, Nicole, is from Sarasota, so their five children are much closer to their grandparents.
"I know exactly what I'm getting, and I'm excited about it," Holtz said. "I talked to some great people, but I had a hard time getting away from that stability and that comfort level."
USF lost associate strength coach Frank Wintrich, who joined Dan McCarney's staff at North Texas, and Golden is able to bring one of his ECU assistants, Greg Honeychuck, to USF to fill that spot on his staff.
Golden replaces Ronnie McKeefery, who stepped down after USF's bowl win in Charlotte, ending a 10-year run with the Bulls to take a job with the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Golden is the fifth assistant hired from Holtz's staff at ECU, joining offensive coordinator Todd Fitch, offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler, defensive ends coach Vernon Hargreaves and defensive backs coach Rick Smith.
BIG WEEKEND: Holtz doesn't have any Hillsborough County or Pinellas County players among USF's commitments, but that could change after this weekend, which has a huge gathering of about 25 recruits for official visits, including many already on board with the Bulls.
Local targets due to be on campus this weekend include Armwood QB/S Josh Grady, Jefferson WR Andre Davis, Robinson athlete Ruben Gonzalez and (though still a long shot) Alonso DE Anthony Chickillo.
"It'll create a great atmosphere," said Holtz, whose staff is preparing for about twice the normal number of weekend visitors with national signing day ahead Feb. 2.
THIS AND THAT: Holtz knows new Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham well from their Conference USA days: Holtz's first Conference USA title at East Carolina came with a win against Graham's Tulsa team, forcing seven turnovers in a 27-24 victory.
"I know Todd well — he's done a great job everywhere he's been," said Holtz, who lost to Graham's 2006 Rice team 18-17 on a field goal with three seconds left.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls.