This article first appeared in the Cal Kickoff Gameday Magazine on Sept. 3, 2011
When Cal football head coach Jeff Tedford arrived in Berkeley, his presence was felt immediately with a 70-22 victory over Baylor to open the 2002 season and usher in the Tedford era at Cal. That first victory spring boarded the Golden Bears to a school-record consecutive bowl appearances from 2003-09, a share of the Pac-10 title in 2006 and numerous other victories and successes. Of course, Tedford could not accomplish all of this alone.
He had help from a number of tremendous players, as well as the support of his assistant coaches. Tedford's coaching staff has gone through several changes since 2002, but two former assistant coaches are returning to Cal in 2011 - offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Jim Michalczik and passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau.
Both Kiesau and Michalczik were part of Tedford's first staff in 2002. Kiesau left after the 2005 season and spent the next five campaigns on the Colorado staff, while Michalczik stayed through the 2008 campaign before departing for the NFL. He did not have to travel far, heading just down the freeway to be an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders for two seasons.
For both coaches, it feels like nothing's changed since the last time they donned the blue and gold.
"Right when I came back, it was easy to step right back into the meetings, the organization and the practices," Kiesau said. "When I was here the first time, I was surrounded by some great men, great coaches, and great human beings. So when Coach Tedford and I started talking about me coming back, it was an easy decision and an easy transition because of the people here."
Kiesau had a chance to say goodbye to the old Memorial Stadium. Last season, as a part of the Colorado coaching staff, Kiesau and the Buffaloes were defeated by the Bears, 52-7. Kiesau noted that it was not that strange to be on the opponents' sideline against Cal last year because five years had passed. All of the players he coached at Cal were gone.
However, Kiesau will return to Boulder in 2011 as an opposing coach with the Bears. This time, he will be across the field from many people he stood alongside only last season. Still, that game is not on his mind just yet.
"That'll be interesting," Kiesau said. I'm just concentrating on Fresno State right now; I haven't really had a chance to think about Colorado yet. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. It will be an emotional day. I'm still very close to a lot of those players, but I'll be able to block that out and focus on the game."
One of the many reasons Kiesau wanted to come back to Cal was the talented receiving corps that he would be inheriting. The Bear receivers are already reaping the benefits of his tutelage.
"He's a great coach, he loves talking about the details," Keenan Allen said. "If we're running a 12-yard route, he wants you to run 12 yards, not 11. He's a real detailed guy. He's a perfectionist. He's a cool dude too."
Having been out of the picture for only two years, Michalczik returns to see some familiar faces on the offensive line. Some of the players that he helped bring into the program are still at Cal, working with their old coach for their senior campaigns.
"Some of these guys I recruited, and I recruited them with the idea that I would be coaching them the whole time," Michalczik said. "My goal is to help them leave on top. It's a little weird. You go away and see how far they've come. To see how they've grown and become men, it's fun to be a part of it."
Michalczik enjoyed his two years with the Raiders, calling it a great learning experience. He said that while professional players are great to work with like college players, the difference is the NFL is more geared towards being a business. With college players, coaches can spend more time helping them find their identity, watching them mature and reaching their full potential.
All of the veteran linemen who Michalczik helped bring into the program were excited to hear the news that their former mentor was coming back.
"It's nice having him back," Dominic Galas said. "I had him for a year and I really liked his coaching style. He's kind of old school, tough mentality, which I like. It's nice to have that back. I knew his system and knew his mentality already."
Both coaches were excited to hear the other was coming back, bringing a mix of new and old to the staff.
Michalczik said at times it feels like déjà vu.
"We'll pull old terminology out with new terminology," Michalczik said. "We'll get new ideas from the places we've been. It's been a healthy, positive mix."