DETROIT — Lance Guidry has been here before: at a bowl game, as an interim coach, tasked with guiding a team of uncertainty to a postseason victory.
Then, he was a defensive backs coach turned head coach at Miami (Ohio) after Mike Haywood left for Pittsburgh before the 2011 GoDaddy.com bowl against Middle Tennessee State.
Then, the RedHawks won, 35-21.
Then, he was supposed to follow Haywood to Pittsburgh. But then Haywood was fired after a domestic violence charge.
“The first time was a lot easier,” Guidry said. “It’s a little bit different this time around.”
Now, he’s a defensive coordinator turned interim head coach at Western Kentucky, after Willie Taggart left for South Florida earlier this month, before the Hilltoppers’ first-ever bowl game against Central Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Wednesday.
Now, he’s dealt with the month-long distraction called Bobby Petrino, whom Western Kentucky hired shortly after Taggart’s departure.
Now, he doesn’t know where he’ll be working next year.
“It’s been rough,” Guidry admitted. “It’s been a rough go for me.”
But if it’s not rough then it’s not right for Guidry, whose underdog mentality has quickly put a personality on the little-known Hilltoppers.
“My whole life, I’ve kind of been an underdog and I put that chip on my shoulder,” he said. “And I think these players are doing the same thing because they’ve been through a lot.”
The seniors went 0-12 in 2009. They went through a coaching change in 2010. They were bowl-eligible but left at home in 2011. Now, they have a chance to send Guidry out in style.
“He’s just a fun guy and tells us what’s real,” junior running back Antonio Andrews said. “How we still have to play as a team and get through these issues together.
“It’s kind of hard to get distracted when you have a guy like (Guidry) as your head coach.”
But the distractions are still there, for the team and for Guidry, who runs the nation’s No. 23-ranked defense.
So he’s bringing an extra coach to the sidelines in Detroit, in order to stay focused on the task at hand that Detroiter Aretha Franklin succinctly spelled out: Respect.
“People still don’t really know our name, so that’s kind of been our motto all year: What’s our name?” he said. “I think these kids will play that way, they’ll play like the underdogs and we’ll come out real angry and hungry.”
In other words, they’ll play like their head coach. For one last game.
JERSEY BOYS: The Hilltoppers will wear their gray alternate jerseys for the first time on Wednesday.
“I like them,” Guidry said. “We’ve been waiting for two years to wear them.”
Waiting, because the team didn’t want to debut them until a bowl game.
“I’m just happy that they’re able to wear them,” he said.