Nearly 15 months after he first took over at Baylor, Dave Aranda is still learning how to be a head coach while also remaining himself.
It’s not a natural marriage. Aranda, 44, spent 25 years as a defensive assistant, happy to focus mostly on X’s and O’s. Talking ball, whether it was in a staff meeting or a coaches clinic, placed Aranda in his most natural state. That is only a fraction of what’s required to lead a Power 5 program. Creating a culture, setting a standard and practicing accountability are necessary, something he learned the hard way as Baylor slogged through a 2-7 season in 2020. After losing so much talent from its 11-win 2019 squad, some drop-off was expected, but 2020 was even tougher than Aranda anticipated.
As he ruminated on the challenges of the last year recently, Aranda leaned forward at his desk. Wearing a green-and-gold mask with “BU” on it — a reminder that even as Baylor resumes in-person interviews pandemic precautions remain — his mood was introspective.
He looked to his right, through the large window that overlooks Baylor’s outdoor practice field. The Bears are in the middle of spring football and the men’s basketball team just won the national championship, creating an upbeat mood on campus.
Aranda offered a frank assessment of what went wrong last year, in a way that most in his profession avoid. Vulnerability is not a commonly cited trait amongst powerful football coaches.
“I’ve never said ‘Hey, this is what I want. Do it this way. Do it my way,’” Aranda said. “I don’t think I’ve ever uttered those words, and I really kind of still haven’t now.”
Asked how well things are going compared to last year, he went on, uninterrupted, for almost 17 minutes. He talked about his own introversion. The need to be more assertive. Establishing clear expectations. At one point he wondered aloud if it’s a bit much.