Coaching Carousel Stops & We Pay Tribute to Tommy West Exit Presser

Yahoo Sports’ excellent College Football writer Pat Forde recently penned a column on the apparent end of the 2015 Coaching Carousel. Indeed, it appears very likely at this point that Memphis is going to hang onto Justin Fuente for a 4th season. As Forde implies by listing it in his “Big Winners” section, that’s a good thing. He also makes mention of the fact that the entire AAC upgraded its coaching roster:

American Athletic Conference. League champion Memphis retained 2014 Coach of the Year Justin Fuente. And the entire Southwest Frontier upgraded: Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman to Houston; Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris to SMU; Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery to Tulsa. There will be more points in a league rife with struggling offenses.

As a celebration of the apparent end to the coaching carousel, I also wanted to take this opportunity to formally honor perhaps the most underrated video in coaching carousel history: The Tommy West Exit Presser of 2009 (hereinafter TWEP09).

TWEP09 is amazing. Anyone that’s ever seen TWEP09 knows without question that it is amazing. Even so, I still think it’s vastly underrated. That’s how good it is. Amazing — and yet underrated. Go ahead and take a look, and then please keep reading and allow me to explain in even greater detail (below) why TWEP09 is one of the greatest pressers of all time:

So freaking good. Here’s a list of what makes it so:

1. The fact that it happened at all. A lot of times (perhaps most times) when coaches are fired, they don’t get a press conference on campus. The AD will have a press conference and maybe the coach will do an interview somewhere else. For example, when Bo Pelini was fired last year at Nebraska, he had to go to a local high school to profanely, verbally assault his former bosses (warning: explicit language). The fact that TWEP09 was a university administered press conference makes what happened in that video that much more amazing.

diabeetus2. The accent. Thomas Cleveland West, originally from Gainesville, GA, has a country accent that makes Wilford Brimley (left) sound like John F. Kennedy. Diabeetus. Somehow, West manages to make the word “fans” a 2-syllable word: fa-ahns.

A few months prior to TWEP09, I was in my car listening to West get interviewed on a post-game show. West kept referring to the next week’s opponent, Middle Tennessee State as simply “Mehdal.”  Something like, “We just gotta put this behind us and get ready for Mehdal”  and “Mehdal is going to be a real test for us.” The person riding in the car with me turned to me in utter confusion and said, “what the hell is he talking about, what on earth is a Mehdal? It took me a minute, but I finally figured it out. Ironically, West is currently the defensive line coach at Mehdal.

2. Stating the obvious. Is there a better opening line than, “Let me start by saying that it’s not fun and not easy when you get fired. That’s a bad day. Ok? That’s not a good day at the office.” 

First of all, no. There isn’t a better opening line. It’s amazing.

Second of all, no shit. No shit it’s a bad day. I love you Tommy West. I love you so much.

With this simple statement, West managed to:

(a) put everyone at ease with his country charm,

(b) somehow cause everyone watching to conjure up an image of ol’ Tom West as an aging, obselete, arthritic office worker making $16.60 per hour sitting in a cube pleading with someone from IT to help him find his “sent items” folder in his Outlook account. Ol’ Tom has been on the job 24 years and worked hard until one random day (today) his boss came in with tears in his eyes to break the news that he has to let ol’ Tom go because the hot shots in upper management just outsourced his job to Tianjin,


(c) set us all up to think he was going to be calm and folksy, when really he was about to lower the boom….

3. “Sour grapes” Stroke of genius for West to say that it would have been sour grapes had he complained as coach (which, by the way, he often did – particularly on George Lapides’ radio show) but now that he’s fired he is just going to get a few things off his chest. This was a fine setting of the table. Perfect.

Never mind the fact that complaining after you get fired still fully, 100%, qualifies as sour grapes.

4. “Now is the time to stand up!” This was the turning point of TWEP09, and it was incredible. West repeats this line twice early in TWEP09, and the 2nd time he does in a slow, emphatic manner. Now… the time……..staaaand…….up. This is the moment at which it became clear this isn’t your typical, thanks for the opportunity see you down the road speech. This is a call to arms, and it worked. The viewer’s reaction went something like this: Uh, what is happening? Why is he yelling at me?  What? Is? Happening? Woah. He knows the history of the program. He knows it really well. He just mentioned Stobart. Wow, I’m impressed. He’s really thought this through. I can’t believe any human being alive besides myself even remembers who Chuck Stobart is. That was like, the late 80’s. This is really impressive. Maybe he’s right. He’s undoubtedly right, isn’t he? He mentioned Rip! Poor Rip. Poor poor Rip. Such a nice guy. Damn these big wigs. Damn Calipari. Rip beat UT! This is BS. I LOVE YOU TOMMY! WHY DID WE FIRE YOU?!?!? COME BACK!!!! DON”T GO!!!!!

5. “Do away with it” All snark aside, the fact that a recently fired coach – a coach who went to 5 bowl games in 7 years – stood up in front of the media with the school’s logo in the background and suggested the school should consider dropping football was really a pretty big deal. West’s frank commentary upped the stakes in Memphis and put pressure on the administration to finally do something. They still messed up the next hire (badly), but this was a turning point for Memphis in terms of investing in football. West deserves credit for going there.

And the fact that he did it with that accent makes me want to watch it 900000000000 more times.

6. Paihhnful. IT’S PAIHHNFUL! This is the enduring legacy of TWEP09. Again – an extra syllable here. PAIH-UN-FUL. 3 syllables. How much pain did we put this man through? How much pain did his bosses put him through? Jeez. Something seems terribly wrong. At this point, I really feel sorry for him, but more than that I really love the way he says this word.  PAIH-UN-FUL. Say it again. And again. So awesome.

Really sorry about that pain though.

7. “9 years. Hard years! Fightin’ years! Every day a fist-fight!” The passion and depth of emotion being displayed here is off the charts amazing, but I have to ask a serious question: what the f*&k is this guy talking about? Was he coaching football or fighting Sunnis in Kirkuk? Wow.

What kind of struggle has this man been up against? I mean, I realize your facilities are absolute dog sh*t, that you have to practice at the local high school because your AD can’t find a few thousand dollars in the budget to get you a turf practice field, and that for years John Calipari has sucked every morsel of attention and resource out of the athletic department. I get all that, but woah there big fella. Aren’t you maybe taking this a little far?

8. “I’m not saying this in a negative way.” Actually, yes. Yes, you are. That’s ok. We love it anyway. We really love it. Please, go on…

9. “Smart aleck articles.” Tom West doesn’t like smart alecks.

Tom West doesn’t care for your smarty pants, wisenheimer, wise guy articles.

Tom West wants you to show some respect.

Tom West wants you to pick up a gosh darned oar and start rowing.

10. Bob Winn.  Winn, the longtime media relations professional in the UM athletic department, calmly re-assumes control of the podium at the end of the YouTube clip when West is finished and shows absolutely no surprise or any emotion whatsoever. He calmly announces that some other such nonsense will be taking place at 3pm at the athletic complex. Never mind the fact that his fired football coach just got up there (like 8 seconds ago) and screamed about shutting down the program. That didn’t happen. Nothing to see here. Just mosey on over to the athletic complex at 3pm – they’ll have some cookies and coffee waiting. Thanks.

Gotta love that guy. Earned his paycheck that day.

There are dozens of other reasons TWEP09 is amazing. Without getting into too much detail, here is an abbreviated list: West’s hair, his shirt, his facial expressions and every single sound that emanated from his mouth.

Hard to believe it’s been over 5 years since TWEP09. A lot has changed – one coach of the Memphis football program has come and gone. I don’t recall a Larry Porter exit conference – because it didn’t happen. Because TWEP09 surely taught the folks at UM a valuable lesson about not doing that again.

Memphis fans don’t miss being a part of the coaching carousel, but any fan of life and humanity longs for more moments like TWEP09.