SEATTLE (AP) — Secrecy and confidentiality were of the utmost importance to Jimmy Lake. He wanted to respect the wishes and timeline of how word would be spread that Chris Petersen was about to step down and Lake was about to become the new head coach at Washington.
In a house filled with family during the Thanksgiving weekend holiday, that proved a challenge.
“There were definitely some looks at me,” Lake recalled after getting the first phone call on Saturday of what was about to transpire. “Even my son, Jimmy Jr., I was staring at him knowing I was going to be the next football coach at Washington and he goes, ‘Dad, what are you doing? What are you looking at me like that for?’ I go, ‘Oh nothing.’ They knew something was going on, but they had no idea this was the news.”
Lake finally looped in most of his family on Sunday night or Monday morning before the news became public that the 42-year-old was taking over for Petersen and getting his first opportunity as a head coach at Washington.
For the past few seasons Lake has been coveted by other programs around the country for his skill as a defensive tactician and his success as a recruiter. But he never left Seattle, never left Petersen’s side.
In part it was because of the opportunity Petersen gave Lake years ago at Boise State. Lake had long admired what he had seen from Petersen’s programs at Boise State while coaching in the NFL. Lake was a Northwest native and always kept and eye in that direction even as he coached in Detroit and Tampa Bay with the pros.
When Tampa Bay underwent a coaching change in 2011 and Lake was out of a job, he was determined to work for Petersen.
“I wanted to go see what the secret sauce was all about,” Lake recalled. “There is something about Chris Petersen’s program over at Boise State — and that’s when they were winning Fiesta Bowls and going 11-0, 12-0 — and fortunately I was able to work with him. He hired me as the defensive backs coach and it didn’t take long to figure out what the secret sauce was.”
It also didn’t take Petersen long to realize Lake had the qualities to eventually be a head coach. And over time it became clear he could be an obvious choice as Petersen’s successor, whenever that day arrived.
“I have no doubt this is the better thing for these kids and this program and this fan base for Jimmy to go and inject his vision and his energy into this,” Petersen said.
Lake plans to implement and continue many of Petersen’s philosophies that have been well received by players and Washington’s administration. But on the field, Lake may be a little less CEO of the program and more deeply involved in the schemes Washington will use.
“What's going to be a little bit different is I am passionate about Xs and Os. I am passionate about football strategy,” Lake said. “It’s what has driven me really in the beginning of my career going all the way up to the National Football League and then really taking a next step there. And so that's really what I want to do is bleed that passion over into all three phases, offense, defense and special teams. And I think that's where it will be a little bit different, a little bit more attacking, a little bit more aggressive. And that's what I'm excited about.”
Lake also wasn’t deterred from taking over the job after hearing the reasons for why Petersen is stepping away. All involved are hoping for a seamless transition through Washington’s bowl game, into the offseason and toward Lake’s first game in charge, currently scheduled for Sept. 5, 2020 against Michigan.
“I think I’m going to be able to lean on our football staff,” Lake said. “I think I’ve been through some hard times already in my career. If you go back and check we’ve been through some tough seasons. I can always lean back on those experiences that are going to help me. And this is a tough business and this program is going to be tough, it’s going to be unified, it’s going to be competitive and we’re going to have to deal with some setbacks, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”