When Bob asked Gus about the hot seat
Bob Holt and Gus Malzahn go way back.
Bob is a veteran sports reporter in Arkansas who covers the Razorbacks. Gus is an Arkansas native who coached high school football there for years and coordinated the offense for the Hogs for one reality show of a season in 2006.
Call them the Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear of SEC football.
Bob and Gus have such a good relationship that, in introducing the Auburn coach Thursday at SEC Media Days, Commissioner Greg Sankey joked that Gus "holds the conference record for having been asked more questions by Bob Holt than any other coach in SEC history."
Naturally, after Gus finished his opening statement, Bob got the first question. Choosing a quarterback? Resuming full-time play-calling? Losing the school president who gifted Gus the most overly generous contract in SEC history?
No, no, no. Bob asked Gus about the hot seat.
Check, please. We're done here.
In his genial, genius way - nobody frames seemingly innocent queries that get better answers at Media Days - Bob prefaced his question by mentioning that Gus is the only current SEC coach who's defeated Emperor Zurg - I mean, Nick Saban - and didn't even use the words "hot seat." Which was perfect because Gus did in his head-on, self-assured answer.
"I got a job that expects to win championships, and I expect to win championships," Gus said. "I knew that when I signed up for it. In the years that we win championships, it's good. The years we don't, it's hot seat this, hot seat that. … And you ask how you deal with it. That's just part of being at a place that expects to win championships. Some places, eight wins, they celebrate. That's just not part of Auburn. We expect to win championships, and we've done that. And we're going to have more championships in the future here, too."
That answer was good and bold, delivered in a voice that betrayed no doubt, but sometimes the question is more important than the answer. Sometimes the questioner is more important than the question. Sometimes both. And this one time, at band camp, Bob asked Gus about the hot seat.
It almost didn't matter that Gus sounded nothing like a man who may be taking his first steps down the highlighter green mile in the opener against Oregon, that he came across as confident as Cam Newton. When you enter your seventh season at Auburn having lost four of your last five against Alabama since the Kick Six and five of your last six against Georgia since the Prayer in Jordan-Hare, no words in July are going to quiet your critics.
But when Bob Holt takes the mike, stands up and says to Gus Malzahn - in front of the SEC Network cameras - "You guys have had a lot of success at Auburn; yet it seems every other year, if you guys slipped to eight wins or whatever, there's talk about your job being in jeopardy," it makes you wonder. What about the Auburn decision-makers? What are they saying?