The Charlotte 49ers introduced Brad Lambert, the long-time Wake Forest assistant coach and defensive coordinator, to the public and the media Tuesday. The 49ers need a coach that sell the program to players, to fans and to Charlotte. Why can't Lambert be that guy?
He is personable and energetic, and he worked 10 years for Wake Forest's Jim Grobe. If you don't follow Wake Forest or the ACC, you might criticize Grobe's recent slump. But it's only a slump because Grobe won so many games so early. He won an ACC football championship at a school that probably ought to win one conference game a season, against Duke.
Grobe opened practices to fans. I ask Lambert if he will and he says, of course. The idea is to invite the community, make them part of it.
The Chuck Amato rumors were bizarre. Amato, the former N.C. State coach, showed up last summer in the office of Charlotte athletic director Judy Rose. He did not have an appointment. They talked. Somebody saw Amato and decided he was going to be Charlotte's first football coach. The rumor took off.
Amato flamed out in Raleigh after he lost quarterback Phillip Rivers. But there's a segment of Charlotte fans -- the city, not the school -- that demands a celebrity coach.
If you're the 49ers, you don't hire a celebrity. You hire a coach who becomes one. I have no idea whether Lambert will. He's never been a head coach before.
But I liked what I heard Tuesday. And I like what I saw.
Lambert became defensive coordinator at Wake Forest in 2008, and before that coached coached linebackers, defensive backs and special teams. Two of his former linebackers, Aaron Curry (now with the Seattle Seahawks) and Stanley Arnoux (New Orleans Saints) attended Tuesday's news conference.
So did defensive back Alphonso Smith (a defensive back for the Detroit Lions), So did former Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner. So did Will Witherspoon, whom Lambert coached at Georgia and who played for the Carolina Panthers from 2002-05.
Curry flew up from Orlando.
"I wouldn't have missed it for the world," he says.
Witherspoon flew down from Nashville.
Skinner, who lives in Charlotte, drove. But he's a quarterback. Lambert has always coached the defense.
"I'm just thrilled," says Skinner.
Skinner says that the linebackers were the closest group on the team -- gathering before practice and after practice, in the locker room and at dinner. That, says Skinner, is a testament to Lambert, then the linebackers coach.
Says Skinner: "He's as real as you get."