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Tech’s Preston hopes for head-coaching shot

By Ken Sugiura - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia Tech wide receivers coach Buzz Preston has head coaching experience — he was the head coach of the junior varsity basketball team at his high school just after he graduated.

Landing the second head coaching job has been a considerable wait. His coaching career began as a grad assistant in Hawaii in 1980 and has included stops at Notre Dame and Stanford, among other places, over the past 33 years.

“It’s very much a desire to have that opportunity,” said Preston, who came to Tech in 2008 with coach Paul Johnson. “I feel I’m ready for it, mentally, emotionally and everything, and experience-wise.”

To aid his quest, Preston will take part in the NCAA Champion Forum, a three-day workshop that offers development and networking opportunities to minority assistant football coaches seeking to make the jump to head coach. The forum begins Thursday in Orlando, Fla. Preston, who is black, is one of 11 coaches invited.

“No. 1 thing is always gaining information and then No. 2, hopefully get some constructive criticism, get some things you need to improve on to get an opportunity to be a head coach,” Preston said, “or getting information that you may able to help another guy get a head job.”

In December 2011, Preston sought the head job at Hawaii, his alma mater, but was unsuccessful. He also was turned down for another opening during his time at Tech, which he declined to specify. The NCAA forum seeks to increase opportunities for minority coaches. For 2013, there are 15 minority head coaches among the 124 FBS schools, down from 18 in 2012.

Stanford coach David Shaw and Florida president Bernie Machen are among the speakers. Participants will simulate a job interview and receive media training. They’ll have the opportunity to network at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention, which will take place concurrently in Orlando. The forum is led, incidentally, by former Tech football player Curtis Hollomon, the NCAA director of leadership development.

“You just hope that someday, somebody’s going to pull that trigger and give you that opportunity,” Preston said. “You just like to see guys who are like me, that kind of look like me, that have paid their dues and worked hard at some point get their opportunity.”

One hurdle facing Preston is that he has only one year’s experience as an offensive coordinator, at UNLV in 1998, a position often seen as a prerequisite toward becoming a head coach. It’s experience he won’t get at Tech, as Johnson serves as his own coordinator. However, Jeff Monken and Brian Bohannon, both of whom served as offensive assistants for Johnson at Tech, Navy and Georgia Southern, have earned head coaching jobs, Monken at Georgia Southern and Bohannon at Kennesaw State’s new program.

Preston hopes it will happen, but understands it may not.

“The only thing you have control over is your attitude and your reaction to things that happen in your life,” he said. “If you handle those two, it works its way out.”

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