Mike Price embracing ‘great opportunity’ to return to UTEP as interim coach

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Photo: Tony Venegas, TexasHSFootball.com

On Sunday afternoon, Mike Price was back at his cabin in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, enjoying some time on the lake. Less than 48 hours later, Price found himself donning a suit he said he had not worn in two years on Tuesday afternoon. The UTEP head coach from 2004 to 2012 was back in El Paso again; this time as the interim head coach of the Miners.

“I’m really happy to be back,” Price said in his introductory press conference on Tuesday afternoon, “It’s a great opportunity and I’m honored. I’m going to do my best and we’re going to have some fun.”

Price takes over for former head coach Sean Kugler, who resigned on Sunday afternoon after the Miners were defeated 35-21 by Army and fell to 0-5 on the season. Outgoing athletic director Bob Stull made the call to Price on Monday and the rest was history.

“I think it was almost a big shock to Bob as it was to anyone else,” Price said on the move, “These things move fast.”

Mike Price meets with the media in his introductory press conference as the interim head coach at UTEP. (Tony Venegas/TexasHSFootball.com)

Bringing in someone from the outside had not been completely ruled out by outgoing athletic director Bob Stull, even after offensive coordinator Brian Natkin and defensive coordinator Tom Mason were considered to be in the running as the interim coach.

As the decision came across Monday afternoon, some UTEP players took to social media to react to the news. It came as a surprise to some, especially to a coach in Kugler that the team had built a strong loyalty to. When asked about winning the trust of his new team, Price said he would be ready to embrace the challenge with what he called a ‘good group’.

“Inside of every one of those kids is a winner,” Price said, “We’ve got to reach in there and pull it out of them.”

After stating in a release on Monday that Price was not looking to come back as the full-time head coach beyond this season, he emphasized that sentiment on Tuesday. This time, he noted how much of an appreciation he had for the university and for El Paso.

“I love this place,” Price said, “They gave me a job when no else did. They opened their arms and welcomed me. I wouldn’t do it for any other place. UTEP has been awfully good to me.”

UTEP interim head coach Mike Price speaks with an athletic staff member following his introductory press conference at the Larry K. Durham Center in El Paso. (Tony Venegas/TexasHSFootball.com)

Price’s offensive style at UTEP revolved around spreading the ball through the air, a stark contrast to what the run-first offense looks like now. He did note that he would add in a few wrinkles, but that he came in to manage and not be as hands-on in his previous tenure.

“I’m here to bring leadership, management and help,” Price said, “I’m excited to meet with the team and the coaches. I think they’re doing do a good job but if they’re not, I’ll tell them as the head coach. Right now, I’m going to try to keep my mouth shut, back away and watch and observe the way things are going.”

The Miners face some significant challenges the rest of the way starting on Saturday when they host defending C-USA champion Western Kentucky. Price is also trying to bring a team back together that has yet to win a game this season. He knows the task won’t be easy, but he says he’s ready for the challenge and made a call to the fans for support.

“It’s not easy to lose like we’ve lost and it’s not easy on anybody,” Price said, “I’m not a magician. I’m here to help. The fans can help us a lot by supporting us and these players.”

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Tony Venegas is the assistant editor of Texas HS Football. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @advenegas.

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