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University of Houston instrumental in career of Baylor’s Dave Aranda – Houston Chronicle


WACO — Dave Aranda was a newlywed when he accepted his first full-time coaching job at the University of Houston.

Aranda moved with his wife, Dione, from Lubbock, where he was a graduate assistant at Texas Tech, to become linebackers coach on Art Briles’ staff at UH in 2003. Nearly two decades later, Aranda has fond memories of the place where he got his first Division I assistant coaching job, a springboard to his eventually becoming one of the most coveted defensive coordinators in the country and being hired in January as the head coach at Baylor.

“There were no kids. My wife and I were just married. We ate out quite a bit,” said Aranda, the defensive coordinator for LSU during last year’s national title season.

Aranda recalls a push at that time to improve downtown Houston as the city prepared to host the Super Bowl. His apartment was in a neighborhood near West Gray and Shepherd, “where two Starbucks are on the same street facing each other.”

“We would have Sunday brunch, or something like that,” Aranda said this week during a Zoom call with reporters. “I just remember eating out a lot. I don’t think anyone cooked. I don’t know the next time that will be.”

Now 43 and with three children, Aranda has come full circle. With COVID-19 forcing schedule changes during the early portion of the college football season, Baylor was in search of a game. So was UH. In less than 18 hours, the two sides brokered what will ultimately be a three-game series — a fitting storyline as Aranda begins his head coaching career against the Cougars on Saturday at McLane Stadium.

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It will be the first game between UH and Baylor since 1995, the final year of the Southwest Conference.

Thinking of the UH teams he helped coach, Aranda remembers a prolific offense led by quarterback Kevin Kolb. He also has memories of linebacker Lance Everson, a nonqualifier who paid his own way to attend UH-Downtown, suffered a broken jaw in spring practice that caused him to lose 45 pounds and dealt with a serious knee injury. Everson played four seasons at UH, finishing among the school leaders in tackles for loss and earning a degree in sociology.

“He was a linebacker with so much talent,” Aranda said. “You just wanted to see him be healthy.”

He also has memories of UH’s 2003 trip to the Hawaii Bowl, a 54-48 triple-overtime loss to Hawaii that ended in a huge brawl.

“Landing in Hawaii, I remember I was all dressed in red, and I remember going to a coffee spot,” Aranda said. “Everyone was looking at me. We were playing the Warriors, and they were giving me the evil eye. I didn’t wear red after that. I think it was during the game, there was a brawl or something. Memories are kind of coming back.

“It seemed like another life ago, to be honest.”

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As UH and Baylor prepare to renew an old rivalry, Saturday’s game also will bring a reunion with Dana Holgorsen, the wide receivers coach on Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech when Aranda was a graduate assistant.

“Dave Aranda is a heck of a football coach,” said Holgorsen, who is set to begin his second season with the Cougars. “I’ve known him for a long time and have followed his career. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve met. Just his track record defensively is obviously pretty good with what they’ve accomplished at LSU. And his previous stops have been outstanding.”

Aranda recalled Holgorsen “being very innovative” at Tech, whose Air Raid attack behind quarterback Kliff Kingsbury was one of the top offenses in the country.

“I’d always stop by and visit Dana, and he would be doing a million different things,” Aranda said. “At that point, we had movie clips that we would pick for each coach, and they would present it to the team to start the meeting. That was still Blockbuster video days.

“I remember specifically coming into Dana’s office, and he’s got a Blockbuster video on one side, looking through ‘Tombstone’ to find a clip, and on this hand he’s trying to cut up tape. I’ve got a lot of respect for him — hard worker, authentic, smart. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

After UH, Aranda continued a steady progression through the coaching ranks, including stops as defensive coordinator at Hawaii, Utah State, Wisconsin and LSU.

In a short time, Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer said, Aranda has proved to be a player’s coach.

“Really wants to hear our voice and kind of take that into account,” Brewer told the Dallas Morning News this summer.


joseph.duarte@chron.com

twitter.com/joseph_duarte





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