AMES — Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino will forever be known as the man who turned Kansas football into a winning program.
But his first Jayhawk team?
It went 2-10 in 2002.
Mangino thus approached the seemingly impossible task of turning Kansas into a team to be feared, not dismissed with surgical precision — and succeeded to the tune of four bowl appearances, including a 2008 Orange Bowl win.
He had a plan. A single-minded focus. A sharp scalpel.
“I think more than anything, you’re kind of like a doctor,” said Mangino, who returns to Lawrence for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game between the Cyclones (2-6, 0-5) and Jayhawks (2-6, 0-5). “You’ve got to do some diagnostic testing — figure out what the problems are. Why isn’t this working? Why isn’t this happening? And then try to find solutions for those problems.”
Mangino obliged reporters Tuesday by taking a trip down memory lane, but kept his attention firmly fastened on the present.
He said his offensive players returned to the practice field “embarrassed and angry” after last week’s 59-14 loss to Oklahoma. And he expressed pride that they took ownership of a jarring defeat marred by errant throws, dropped passes and spotty protection.
“You can see it by the tempo on the practice field,” Mangino said of the players’ reaction.
Mangino’s gait has been unaffected by the impending return to his last head coaching home.
Extra spring in his step with the Jayhawks up next?
“No,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said.
Mangino’s been there, done that. Yes, he had great success in Lawrence, and yes, it ended in controversy. Mangino resigned after the 2009 season, stung by allegations from some players that he’d been verbally abusive. Several other players sprang to his defense while Mangino refuted the accusations.
Most took his side — and it’s likely he’ll be cheered when he strolls into the field for Saturday’s showdown between two teams hungrily seeking their first conference wins of the season.
In other words, time to saw some more wood.
“We’re a team that needs to win a game,” Mangino said. “That’s what I’m focused on. We need to get on the right track here and get a win. Just preparing my players is my focus. That’s all I’m concerned about to tell you the truth.”
His quarterback, Sam Richardson, will also revisit a site of past success.
The junior burst on to the scene as a freshman in 2012 at Memorial Stadium, going 23 of 27 for 250 yards through the air after starter Steele Jantz was concussed. He tossed four touchdowns that night — and also didn’t notice anything different about Mangino early this week.
“He definitely wants to win, I know that much,” said Richardson, who’s thrown 14 touchdowns to six interceptions this season. “But other than that, he’s just coaching us the way he knows how to.”
That’s with a scalpel — and, if necessary, a fine-toothed saw.
“Here’s how I look at things,” Mangino said. “As a coach and as a person I think you have to examine yourself all the time and you always have to reflect on your experiences and how can I get better as a coach? What can I do to get better? I think every person that thinks they want to be a positive impact on people, you always ask yourself, are you doing enough? Are you doing the right things? But people who’ve been around me the last few years, they don’t see any drastic changes in me. I’m getting a little older, you know? But I still have the same enthusiasm for the game. I still have the same competitive spirit. The Iowa State people here have been great to me. They’ve made me comfortable here. They’ve welcomed me and I need to do more to show my appreciation for that.”