‘This is where I want to be’: LSU coach Brian Kelly vows to finish coaching career with Tigers

LSU football coach Brian Kelly has directed the Tigers to a record of 20-7 and final national rankings of No. 16 and 12 in his two seasons. PHOTO BY: Jonathan Mailhes

When asked about the chaotic world of college football when coaching transactions reach an apex, LSU’s Brian Kelly said his five-school tour over a three-plus decades career was over.

After leading the Tigers to a 9-3 record following Saturday’s 42-30 victory over Texas A&M, Kelly sounded content in his current job where he has eight years remaining on a contract paying him $10 million annually.

With several high-profiled head coaching job circulating at the time, including SEC West Division member Texas A&M which ultimately selected Mike Elko, Kelly there’s still plenty left to accomplish after a 19-7 record and appearance in the SEC Championship game in 2022.

“I’ve been in this for 30-something years,” Kelly said Saturday. “What is that, 200-something in dog years? It’s a long time. I feel that way sometimes. This is where I wanted to be. I wanted to be at LSU, and I love it here. I’m not going anywhere. This is the last stop on the coach Kelly caravan.”

It took the lure of four-time national champion LSU to wrestle Kelly away from Notre Dame after 12 seasons. He followed consecutive subpar seasons by former coach Ed Orgeron and took over a program with 39 scholarship players from the 2021 season that ended with a loss in the Texas Bowl.

A revamped coaching staff where offensive line coach Brad Davis was the lone holdover, Kelly and his staff began rebuilding the roster through the NCAA transfer portal and traditional high school recruiting.

The result?

LSU went 10-4 with the SEC West title, trip to the SEC Championship game against Georgia. The Tigers finished with a resounding 63-7 win over Purdue in the Citrus Bowl.

Kelly believed he was just getting started, trying to rebuild the culture in a program he envisions will contend for and win championships.

He plans to be in Baton Rouge when the Tigers accomplish that.

LSU began the ’23 season with a lofty No. 5 ranking and wound up the regular season ranked No. 13 and await a postseason bowl berth. The Tigers stood 3-2 following a season-opening loss to Florida State (45-24) and SEC West foe, Ole Miss (55-49), but responded with five wins in their last six games, falling at Alabama (42-28).

All three losses were on the road to teams ranked in the Top 20.

“You go, ‘well he’s just saying that to get the right soundbite.’ I don’t have to say anything that puts me in a corner, but this is it,” Kelly said. “This is where I want to be. This is where I want to coach. I love it here. I love the people.

“I love the state and I love the fact that I’m working with an administration, an athletic director in Scott Woodward and president (William) Tate, that are giving us the support necessary to graduate champions,” Kelly added. “So, this is where I want to be.”

How will the makeup of Kelly’s third coaching staff look?

He said it’s customary after conducting exit interviews with all of his players, Kelly will evaluate the job he did this season and extend that assessment to all of his assistant coaches.  

No assistant coach has come under greater scrutiny than second-year defensive coordinator Matt House, whose unit was among the worst in Division I football and the SEC this season. The Tigers allowed 27.8 points and 409.2 yards per game.

“I evaluate what I have done, and I have to look at as the leader of this program,” Kelly said. “How did I lead this year? So, it starts with me, and then I’ll evaluate all of our coaches and our support staff as well. Everybody is part of this evaluation process.

“Players will be evaluated this week and then I’ll go through a lengthy evaluation of our entire staff, not just the coaches, but the entire support staff as well,” Kelly said. “The ultimate goal here is to win championships, but I also know the development of this program is still ongoing and that’s an important piece in this evaluation as well.”

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William Weathers

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