In my humble and unbiased opinion, there is clear leader in the running for the Montana State head coaching vacanc, and that man is Mike Van Diest. Here are a few reasons to hire Mr. Van Diest:
1. Coaching staff retainment (crosses fingers)
VD (as he shall be known hence) doubled as the defensive coordinator at Carroll. Well, MSU runs a very similar defense to that of Carroll, and I believe he would give current MSU DC Rob Christoff a shot at keeping his job. This would ensure the continuity of the defense, as they would serve as the anchor for this transitioning Bobcat squad. If VD lets Christoff go, this whole plan is scrapped and I look a fool. But I digress.
2. He is a Montanan
A sense of pride for both Montana schools is seeing local talent exceed at the next level, especially when that level is in-state. Every football savvy person in the state is at the very least familiar with Van Diest, and having him coach MSU would only expand his exposure and popularity (well a few Griz fans might not see it that way, I suppose). MSU has a reputation as being a mainly out-of-state ballclub, but with a local Montanan at the helm, maybe a few more in-state recruits would come our way. He recruited very well to Carroll, and with better resources, facilities, and perhaps most important of all, scholarships, his recruiting could only get better.
3. He is here for the long haul
VD has had offers before to bigger, brand-name schools. He has remained a Fighting Saint for his love of the school and his hometown. I truly believe there are only three jobs he would ever consider leaving Carroll for – Montana State, University of Montana, and quite possibly his alma mater, Wyoming. If he did end up at MSU, that leaves only one possible option for him to ever leave of his own free will. He was quoted today as saying “I’m not one of those guys who’s always looking to move on to something bigger and better…” He will be 100% committed to Montana State, I believe.
4. He sells the program to his players
He wants nothing more from his players than for them to love their university and their teammates. “At Carroll, Van Diest says, he has always emphasized God, family, school and football – in that order. He believes that if a player takes care of his business off the field and in the classroom, he’ll be prepared to devote all his attention to football during practice. The philosophy works: His players maintained better than a 3.0 grade-point average while winning those four national titles.” That could certainly help MSU’s woes as of late in the academic department.
Don’t make the mistake that thinking VD only knows NAIA, small-time football. He has coached in various positions (excluding HC) at Northwestern, Wyoming, Massachusetts and Montana. He has compiled a 89-18 record at Carroll, because of his previous coaching experience – “he is, he says, a product of all his experiences. He has learned something from every place he’s been and from every coach with whom he’s ever worked.” He has coached national championship squads – he knows what mental toughness is required of his players. He knows what it takes to win, he is a proven winner.
I’m not saying Van Diest is the best candidate MSU could possibly hire (we aren’t privy to whom else has applied, besides current interim head coach and offensive coordinator, Don Bailey, who I think is a underrated candidate), but he would certainly be a very good choice. Granted if there is a better name in the pool, he deserves as much of a look as the next guy. But for now, I think Van Diest is the #1 choice in Bozeman, and with very good cause.