But the message that’s on Bulls shirts and practice field signs crystallized when he was a trying to help rescue a Tennessee offense from outside the top 100 nationally. The unit he coordinated was filled with promising recruits who wanted to make it to the NFL.
“Now they’ve got to do what they say they’re going to do,” Golesh said. “They’ve got to be who they say they are, and we as coaches got to be who we say we are.”
Be who you say you are.
It’s a straightforward idea from the straightforward, 39-year-old Russia native who will lead his first game as a head coach at any level when his Bulls play Western Kentucky on Saturday. It also begs the question:
Who does Alex Golesh say he is?
‘I feel really humbled because I’ve never been handed anything.’
Golesh’s family didn’t have much when they came to America when he was 7. They worked for everything they had. Still do; his dad runs a warehouse in Ohio, and his mom works at an interpreter agency.
Golesh is the same way. He has done everything from sweeping floors and cutting up film to coordinating the nation’s best offense. His work ethic is no different as a head coach.
“I just see him in the building all day, every day,” veteran offensive lineman Donovan Jennings said.
As hard as Golesh works — and he promised on Day One that his staff would outwork everyone in the country — he says he hasn’t done it in search of a bigger job. The only two positions he took because he wanted to (not because a staff was moving) were the co-offensive coordinator gig at UCF for the 2020 season and the top role at USF. That sets him apart from many of his peers.
“Our profession is full of people that give a s--- about money and fame and success and notoriety and Twitter likes and whatever you want to call it,” Golesh said in his office during the spring.
That’s not who Golesh says he is and certainly not who he wants to be. He follows the advice of one of his mentors, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, by trying to give more to his job than he takes from it. He came to USF not for the prestige or $2.5 million salary but because he saw it as a new challenge and chance to affect more lives, the way his high school coach did for him.
He tries to remember that, too, when he confronts his list of countless daily decisions.
“If I could just wake up every morning and make every decision for the best of our kids … then if I’m wrong or I screw it up, I did it with the right intent,” Golesh said. “I can live with that.”
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“Man, I want to be the best in the industry.”
Ask players about Golesh, and you’ll hear the same word: elite.
“He says he’s an elite dude at all times,” defensive end Jason Vaughn said. “An elite dude 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
He has pushed USF to upgrade its commitment, from improved nutrition to the football operations center that will be part of the proposed on-campus stadium. He wants his practices to be elite, his processes to be elite, his meetings to be elite. He wants his players to be physically elite, academically elite and socially elite. That’s the standard Golesh sets, and everyone (including himself) is accountable to it.
“I hate it when people say, ‘pretty good,’ ” Golesh said. “Like, pretty good is average, and average people suck, you know what I’m saying?”
“I am very much an open book.”
If Golesh can turn the Bulls around immediately, his direct approach will be a major reason why.
“When you ask him something, he’ll tell you the truth,” safety Logan Berryhill said. “He isn’t going to sugarcoat anything.”
Even when it comes to himself. He volunteers the fact that his main goal in life isn’t to be the best coach or offensive mind — a shocking statement in this industry.
“I know I wouldn’t have said that 10 years ago,” Golesh said.
But things change. He has two children, Corbin and Barrett, now and a wife, Alexis. Golesh says they don’t care whether he’s a head coach — and would probably prefer he wasn’t.
“I just really, really wanted to be a great husband and a great father,” Golesh said. “And I fall short daily, but with that, I feel like I’ve gotten the balance to go be the best football coach, the best mentor, the best leader I can possibly be.”
“I try to be in a lot of ways what our profession really isn’t, which is just be myself.”
As Golesh approached his first season as a head coach, the advice he got from colleagues was consistent and fitting:
“Don’t change. Trust what got you there. Be yourself.”
So who is Golesh?
He’s a hard-working immigrant with a dry sense of humor and elite expectations on and off the field. He won’t shy away from it, and he doesn’t want anyone else to, either.
“I don’t want anybody to be somebody they’re not,” Golesh said. “I just want them to be the best version of them.
“And that’s what be who you say you are is.”
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