BERKELEY -It's a time of transition for Cal offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin. A lifelong Washington resident, Baldwin's not only making a big move to the Bay Area with his young family but he's also transitioning from FCS football to the Pac-12 and from 10 years as a head coach to his roots as an offensive coordinator for the Bears.
Part of the transition Baldwin's managing is the sale of his home and moving his family to Orinda, just through the Caldecott Tunnel from Berkeley. Thinking his kids would want to wait till summer to leave their friends behind, Baldwin's daughter Mia favors the aggressive nature of her father, opting to make the transition as soon as possible.
"I thought I was throwing my family a bone by telling them they could just move down over the summer, but my 12-year old said, 'No, it makes sense to make new friends now. I'd rather not be the new kid all next year.' We all want to be down here, though."
Baldwin has spent 10 seasons as a head collegiate coach including the last nine campaigns at Eastern Washington (2008-16). He was also the head coach for one year at Central Washington in 2007 before rejoining Eastern Washington. His teams compiled a combined overall record of 95-35 (.731) and 64-16 (.800) in conference play.
Baldwin led his Eastern Washington team to a national FCS title and was named College Sporting News Coach of the Year in 2010 and won 11 or more games five times and captured five league championships over his final seven seasons as the school's head coach.
As head coach, Baldwin still did most of the offensive play calling during his tenure at EWU, though stepping back from the administrative duties of a head coach to focus almost solely on the offense will still be an adjustment for the Bears' new OC.
"It's a little bit of a balancing act being a head coach and a play-caller, which I did the majority of the time -almost 100% of it during my last several years," said Baldwin.
"Ultimately, a great head coach is only going to be as good as the coaches and the people around him, though.
"It's going to be the same thing as an offensive coordinator. You have to have the right people around you so you can lean on them when you need them -whether that's fellow assistant coaches and/or players.
"That's something I was very fortunate to have at Eastern. And here at Cal, I feel exactly the same. The staff that Coach Wilcox has established and what we've got going allows you to trust and put a lot into those assistant coaches because they're extremely good at what they do And we also feel very good about the talent we have in this program. Your success as a coach and as a program is going to be dictated by those student athletes and what they can do on the field and off the field, too -how well-rounded they are.
"We have a great foundation as I look at this personnel."
Interestingly, the one year in recent years where Baldwin stepped back fairly significantly from play calling was this last season, where new offensive coordinator and former Cal star quarterback Troy Taylor stepped in to take on a significant role in play calling for the Eagles in their successful season after heading up a prolific offense with current Washington quarterback at Folsom High School prior to his arrival in Cheney.
"That was probably the one year where I gave the most free reign to my coordinator than I have in a lot of years," said Baldwin. "My reasoning was, I wanted to grow as a coach and us to grow as a team. I'd called plays full-time for 20 years and I wanted to grow as a head coach in terms of diving into the special teams and the defense a little bit more an also in terms of what we could do.
"We'd been a powerful offense for years but I felt like if we just pounded our chest about it and didn't grow, that's where you start to get passed up.
"Troy had some new ideas and some things he did at Folsom that I wanted to incorporate and blend with some of the things we were already doing in our offense.
"He's definitely a Cal guy. He just talked about how much he loved his experience at Cal and how much he loved the people and the culture and environment. It was and still is a very special place for him here in Berkeley."
Baldwin has been nothing but impressed with the staff that Cal's new head coach Justin Wilcox has assembled around him and has high hopes for the program.
"There's no question he's established a high-caliber staff in terms of their football knowledge, their ability, their football experience, their ability to teach. You can see all that," said Baldwin. "But I'll tell you something else that people probably don't know or realize, but culturally, what great people they are. What they view as being important in their lives. They're incredible people that are going to care about others as people before they worry about being incredible in the X's and O's. Caring about what it takes to work as a team What it takes to get the most out of a young man. What it takes to care about a young man first. Then you can get those types of guys to feel like, 'Okay, we want to run through walls for each other.'
"You can get detached from your fellow assistants and from the players sometimes as a coach but we don't have that here. We have coaches that want to be attached and want to be a part of each other's lives so you have each other's back and have that trust. And we all know that ultimately why we're in our positions is to develop these young men. We're developing a culture that we know from day to day, we can do things that go much deeper than football."
One of the interesting elements of the staff that Wilcox has established in the diversity in age and experience, ranging from long time veteran offense line coach Steve Greatwood and defensive line coach Jerry Azinero to young assistants like wide receivers coach Nick Edwards and new outside linebackers coach Tim Tuiotti -and many in between. The Cal staff also has two coaches with head coaching experience in Baldwin and defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter to help smooth Wilcox's transition to his first head coaching job after coming back to Berkeley for the first time on staff since 2005.
"This staff definitely has a good, wide range," said Baldwin. "I think that's strategic by Coach Wilcox. The thing I respect so much about him is he's tried to create a staff that's not 10 guys just like him or a certain assistant coach. He wants to get a great mix because that great mix allows you to be more diverse in how you coach and how you teach and how you relate to the players. Different student athletes gravitate to different personalities. I think it's really quite intelligent for Coach Wilcox to really put a lot of thought into what is the right fit here.
"There's definitely a bond that's formed outside of football already between the coaches You can feel that already."
After spending all his life in Eastern Washington, Baldwin is adjusting daily to his new surroundings and what he has to work with in Berkeley.
"I'm still learning more every day about what makes Cal special," said Baldwin. "I knew through recruiting and from people I know that have been through here just the level what it meant to have a Cal degree. I didn't know before I got here that it was the number one public institution in the nation but that's something that really resonates with players and their families.
"Everyone knows some of the big names that have played at Cal, like Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch and their exciting style of play so I've always had a ton of respect for Cal. At Cal, you have a true student athlete in every sense of the word.
"I'm an optimistic person by nature but I don't see any reason when you put together the combination of what you have to offer at Cal why we can't have a lot of success.
"You don't even have to really sell anything. You just give recruits and their family the information and it sells itself.
"At Cal, you're in an area where you're going to get very intelligent students and as a coach, it's always good to work with intelligent players. You're in an amazing area, too. I don't see having to venture a whole lot outside of the region to be very successful regionally and nationally.
"Everyone that's from the bay loves it here. When I've met people that have lived there, there's more passion for the Bay Area than almost anywhere in the country.
"You almost have no excuse not to win here."
Music to Cal fans' ears.
Now that Baldwin's gotten his feet wet working with the program, he's beginning to get a feel for what he and the Cal staff have inherited from a talent standpoint and character standpoint.
"I've been extremely impressed," said Baldwin. "We watched the film initially and I think it's definitely a place where the cupboard's far from bare, especially on offense, where I've been concentrating."
As for quarterback, does the veteran offensive mind see ample talent to work with?
"I do," said Baldwin. "We have to see them more in person, on the field, obviously.
"I've seen a lot of guys in recruiting. We offered Chase (Forrest) out of high school early on. We offered Ross (Bowers). And the other guys we're still getting a feel for them on film. The tools that are there, we definitely have something to work with.
"There are a lot of very smart, talented, tough players on this roster, in general. There are a lot of characteristics in these student athletes that make you think, 'Man, this is going to be fun to work with.' Then it intensifies when you get face-to-face with them on the practice field.
"You see them in the weight room or after they've been practicing and they're just hungry. There's just a hunger to be challenged and to be coached. They want that interaction and that bond and know what we'll need to be doing as a team moving forward.
"You can feel that from these guys. There's a vibe that tells you this is a great chance to build something here. And credit to Coach Dykes. He recruited quality people for this program. He left with this place in a very good position from that standpoint and that's always nice to see when you come into a new situation.
"We've got the makings of being that winning type culture."