Morning Jac: Allan's Long Journey Ahead
With cardboard boxes and bubble-wrapped lamps surrounding him in his Baltimore apartment, Mike Allan was feeling a bit overwhelmed. Unfortuantely for Allan, the former Towson assistant and newly minted head coach at UC Santa Barbara, packing up all his belongings will be the easiest part of his transition from Charm City back to the Left Coast. Awaiting him in two weeks is a cross-country car trip with his wife and new puppy, which means his 2,798-mile trek will be based on a series of two-hour blocks interrupted by doggy walks.
When he finally arrives in Santa Barbara, where he coached from 2004-08 before signing on with Towson, there will be plenty of familiar faces and places. The school is still located in a little slice of heaven and long-time assistant Jon Miller remains on the staff. The program he is taking over, however, will be less recognizable.
Allan won a pair of MCLA national championships with the Gauchos in his previous five-year stint and developed UCSB into one of the most prominent programs in the non-varsity world. As he returns to the helm, he does so after a pair of first round flameouts, a season in which the team didn't qualify for the tournament, and two previous head coaches that left under ugly circumstances. This upheaval was on the forefront of Allan's mind when he interviewed for his old spot, but he found himself quickly assuaged.
"I was a little wary during the interview process. There has been quick turnover in the three years while I was gone," Allan said. "I wasn't sure what the team attitude was going to be like and how that would affect the structure and administration of the team, but I was really happy with the way they seemed very focused and very receptive. They really want to be a good team. They did a good job alleviating any concerns I had about a fractured team or disjointed structure."
Allan also believes if there are problems to be fixed, he's the guy to do it. One of the reasons he left the varsity ranks, where he worked exclusively with the offense, and returned to the MCLA was so he could once again immerse himself in all facets of the sport.
"I'm excited about being a head coach again," said Allan. "The biggest thing I took from [Towson] was not coaching every aspect of the game and how excited I am to do that again. I kind of missed that. I've got good guys helping me out in terms of the system and the way we do things, but I really want to be the guy out in front of all that. I want to make sure that my voice and my leadership carries through the whole program."
Perhaps more importantly, Allan believes the players are already on campus that will allow the Gauchos to resume their position among the top teams in the country. His two predecessors, Mario Waibel and Lane Jaffe, were both solid recruiters and stocked the shelves for this coming year. Allan feels it's just a matter of being more efficient in various aspects.
"I think there is a lot there to work with," he said. "Right now, and through the interview process, I heard [the players] talk the talk. The last week in September, we're going to start walking the walk. Their heads are in the right place. I don't think it is a huge culture change to get us to that point."
The MCLA has changed in just the three years that Allan has been gone. He admits that the first round games at nationals are far more competitive than they were just five years ago, and the transition to a selection committe and its emphasis on scheduling is a completely different model than the poll-driven system he is used to. But that shouldn't keep Allan or UCSB from achieving its goals.
As long as Allan can drive 42 hours with a puppy in the back seat to reach his destination, the Gauchos believe he'll help them reach theirs – a Saturday evening in Greenville.