Bob Lutz: Coach's life on the move

Wichitan Kirk Doll has made a career of coaching football, even if his family is never sure where to call home.

09/15/2011 12:00 AM

09/15/2011 9:05 AM

When I called Kirk Doll for an interview, the first thing I asked was how he was enjoying coaching in the United Football League.

Oops.

Doll is no longer coaching with the Omaha Nighthawks in the UFL. He left that job earlier this year to join the staff at San Jose State.

It's difficult to follow Doll, a 1969 graduate of West High who started his coaching career on Jim Wright's staff at Wichita State in 1975 and has been moving about the country ever since.

The soon-to-be 60-year-old Doll has made stops at Iowa State (1979), Tulsa (1980-84), Arizona State (1985-87), Texas A&M (1988-93), Notre Dame (1994-2001), LSU (2002-03), the Denver Broncos (2004-06), Texas A&M again (2008-09), the Omaha Nighthawks (2010) and now San Jose State in the Western Athletic Conference.

"I took this job at the end of April,'' Doll said. "I wanted to get back into college coaching, where there's a little more security. I'm really enjoying it here.''

Doll coaches special teams at running back for the Spartans, who are 0-2 after losses to Stanford (57-3) and UCLA (27-17). Obviously, the second game went better than the first.

Doll, who grew up near 13th and Tyler, close to where Northwest High now sits, maintains strong connections to Wichita. His mother, Dorothy, still lives here in the same house she's been living in for 35 years, Doll said. One of his sisters, Pam Trunecek, also has stayed in Wichita.

Doll coached for Nick Saban and was part of a national championship team at LSU in 2003, and was with the Denver Broncos when they played in the AFC championship game in 2006. Coaching has taken him to a lot of places and to a lot of highs and lows. But he said the decision he made after getting a business degree from East Carolina, where he played for two seasons after transferring from Hutchinson Community College, was the best he's ever made.

"I messed around there for a while with different ideas about what I was going to do with my future,'' Doll said. "I was going to get into the golf business, but unfortunately not as a player. But that didn't work out, so I managed some restaurants and eventually came back to Wichita State because I decided I wanted to coach.''

Doll went to school and joined Wright's staff as a graduate assistant. He helped on the field and even did a little recruiting while pursuing a degree in education. He was a student teacher at Southeast when the Golden Buffaloes, coached by Jim Davie, had state-championship teams. Then he got a high school job in Texas, where he stayed for a couple of years before becoming a part-time assistant at Iowa State.

"My first real job in college was with John Cooper at Tulsa,'' Doll said. "Then I went with him to Arizona State. I've been blessed to have some great mentors.''

One of the first was Elwood Keller, who was the coach at Texas City High when Doll worked there and is one of the "Junction Boys" who played for Bear Bryant at Junction, Texas, in 1954.

But the two mentors Doll goes out of his way to mention are Bob Gile, one of his coaches when he attended Hadley Junior High, and Ken Diskin, an assistant football coach at West under Ed Kriwiel and Harold Brandenburg.

"Bob Gile is why I'm in coaching,'' Doll said. "He was always there for me even when my father wasn't. You know, sometimes there are things that if you tell your own son, he might not listen. But if somebody else tells them something, they'll listen. That was Bob Gile for me. He passed away last year.''

Diskin was the assistant coach Doll could go to with any issue, he said, when it's not easy to approach the head coach.

It's the influence coaches like Gile and Diskin had on him that influenced Doll's decision to pursue coaching. Now in his 36th year, Doll says he is as energized as ever.

"I wouldn't still be doing this if I didn't have the fire,'' he said. "I enjoy working with young people. I always have. Every day, I'm excited about having the opportunity to work and coach football. In my opinion, football is one of the last true disciplines of team sports.''

Doll had two opportunities, he said, to become a head coach. Neither worked out.

He interviewed for an opening at Tulsa before Keith Burns was hired in 2000. Burns lasted three seasons with the Golden Hurricane with a 7-28 record.

"Then I had an interview at East Carolina,'' Doll said. "But they ended up going with someone else.''

Finding assistant coaching jobs, though, has never been an issue.

Doll and his wife, Kathy, have been on the go for decades. They have transported three kids: two grown girls who now live in Louisiana and a son, Kyle, who is a tight end at Texas State.

"It's been a lot good and some bad,'' Kathy Doll said. "Our family loves football, but there's also a lot of uncertainty and knowing the place you are is always temporary. My son said to me one time that he didn't know where he would be buried when he died. He wanted to know where his home was. Sometimes you wish you had a home that was really just home.''

Miller hasn't had that, really, since his days in Wichita. He was a big Wichita State basketball fan as a kid, but also remembers going to football games at Veterans Field.

Ironically, he was coaching for Arizona State in 1986 when the Sun Devils beat Wichita State, 52-6, in Tempe. It was the last game the Shockers played; the football program was disbanded shortly thereafter.

"That was the year we went to the Orange Bowl at Arizona State,'' Doll said. "When I was in junior college, I considered playing football at WSU. It was kind of hard coaching against them in that last game because that's where I got my first chance to coach. I appreciate all the people who were there at the time and gave me an opportunity. I've always hoped that someday they would bring football back.''

About Bob Lutz

Bob Lutz has been The Eagle's sports columnist since 1996. A native of Derby, he has worked for the newspaper since 1974 and covered a variety of beats, from high schools to Wichita State to pro sports. If you want to get in good with him, mention the St. Louis Cardinals. Provided they're winning, of course.

Contact Bob at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com

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