I’m so sorry about that leading image. Tad Boyle is used often on the site, and while he features prominently in this piece, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to bring Ol’ Dan back into the forefront of readers.
Take yourself back to 2010. “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha and “Hey, Soul Sister” are running the radio, and people are getting ready for college football Saturday after coming back from the 2nd Twilight movie. Really, 2010 was not a banner year for the arts.
Or the Buffs. Dan Hawkins strong-armed Mike Bohn into a last-chance year for the job. After 2009? After losing to Colorado State IN BOULDER? I don’t know how that’s possible. Hawkins faced a QB controversy with his son, Cody, and Tyler Hansen, who had plenty of athleticism. This was fixed by... continuing the controversy during the season. Hawkins was at the end of his rope, but he was acting like he had all the leeway in the world. The season started out well enough, with a dominating win over CSU and a great all-around game against Georgia at Folsom (this catch is just dumb) (that catch was also the only touchdown Jimmy Smith allowed all season) (Jimmy Smith was really good). A shellacking against a loaded Cal was sandwiched in between. But Dan Hawkins capitalized on all this momentum by losing five straight conference games. Getting blanked against Mizzouri was bad and losing to Texas Tech was worse. But the game against Kansas was the final straw.
sigh The Kansas game is just horrible to talk about. It started out so well. Paul Richardson and Rodney Stewart just dominated the 1st half. Two touchdowns from each and another one thrown by Cody Hawkins meant that the Buffs went to halftime up 35-10. 35 TO 10. Enter the 2nd half and the biggest meltdown in Buffalo history. All CU had to do was run out the clock. And the 3rd quarter looked like a good start. After a field goal early, the Buffs slowed the game down a bit. But Dan Hawkins still wanted Cody to get his career passing record, so CU passed and passed when there was no good reason to. The quarter ended at 38-17, but the cracks were showing and the playbook was revealed. Kansas pounced. As Cody kept passing, the Jayhawks started ball hawking and causing turnovers. The clock clowed to a crawl, the game was extended, and Kanasas SOMEHOW came out ahead, 52-45.
This was the end. The CU faithful was done, so Mike Bohn was finally done. Hawkins was fired during the season, and Brian Cabral was named interim. The change was noticeable immediately. Cabral, a longtime CU coach who was a players’ coach, instilled a fire in the team that wasn’t there. He was blessed with a favorable Big 12 schedule and rattled off wins against Iowa State and Kansas State. The team looked together. The season ended with a shellacking against Nebraska that was emblematic of the season. Hawkins was gone, and Cabral brought some hope. But he wasn’t qualified for the head job, so Mike Bohn had to hire someone else. Someone the old guard fans would love. Someone everyone could rally behind. Someone qualified for the job.
Bill McCartney. No, not really. But they did hire his recommendation. He felt very strongly that the coach had to be an alumni of the school and had to be African-American. That narrowed the Buffs down to a few candidates, and CU hired them all.
Jon Embree was introduced as head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes on December 6, 2010. He was young, energetic, connected to the program and the area, and coaching in the NFL at the time. This was not best case scenario, but after the damage that Dan Hawkins did to the program, it was a good get. He hired Eric Bienemy as offensive coordinator from the NFL, Kanavis McGhee from Houston, and a bunch of experienced coaches to fill out the staff. Things were cautiously optimistic in Boulder.
It did not turn out well, but that’s for another year’s summary.
So let’s turn to basketball. Jeff Bzdelik was relieved of his duties after a horrendous year in charge that was brightened by a young buck named Alec Burks. Mike Bohn didn’t go far up the road to find his next hire. Tad Boyle, fresh off a program-revitalizing run at UNC, moved down to Boulder to start his dream job. There was a lot of skepticism about the hire. People thought Bohn cheaped out, didn’t look very hard, or got distracted by football stuff. But a lot of fans saw Boyle for what he was: A great coach who was a local Colorado kid, and the best case scenario hire for a program that was hurting for cash and cache. No one better was walking through that door and Boyle proved it immediately. Using the same team that won 15 games the year before, plus a little-known player from Texas named Andre Roberson, Boyle led the team to a 24-14 record and an NIT Final Four appearance. (They should have made the NCAA Tournament, but were snubbed in favor of VCU... who ended up making the Final Four.) In that season, Alec Burks exploded as a go-to scorer as a sophomore, and with fellow gunners Cory Higgins (a Buff all-timer), Marcus Relphorde, and Austin Dufault around him, the Buffs could beat anybody. Hell, they beat a great Texas team at home, causing the first of many court-rushes of the Boyle era. A few bad losses early kept CU out of the tournament, but the message was clear: this is a different era of Colorado basketball. After the year, Burks declared for the draft early and a huge class of seniors left, but that wouldn’t stop CU. Bohn made the right hire.
2010 was a big year for the Buffs, for better and for worse. At the start of the new decade, both the football and basketball team changed in a big way. Another poor season by Dan Hawkins sent him packing and kicked off the worst two years in Colorado Football history, which led us to dig out of an even bigger hole. Over on the hardwood, a great hire by a soon-to-be-gone AD led to a brand-new energy in basketball. Boyle had produced instant results and made a bunch of new fans in the process. The win against Georgia and AJ Green was an early highlight, with the loss to Kansas still haunting fans’ dreams. Basketball provided a lot of nice moments, with beating Texas at home number one on that list, but played enough stinkers to send them to the NIT. You could say that 2010 kickstarted CU athletics to where they are today.