It was mighty kind of Armanti Edwards and Appalachian State to hasten the
's football coaching search.
When Edwards and the Mountaineers dramatically ended the University of Richmond's season Saturday night, Spiders coach Mike London suddenly was available.
Cavaliers honchos wasted no time on the guy who appeared to be their first, second and third choice.
Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage talked about how he and his fellow searchers examined many candidates. Yet less than 24 hours after the Spiders' loss, the Cavaliers had a new coach, and 38 hours later, that coach formally was introduced.
"We have the right person and the best fit for the university," Littlepage said. "He's the best person that we could ever get for building the program at this time."
London's six years as an assistant at Virginia, in two different stints, essentially was his job interview. His two years at Richmond, which included a national championship and a playoff quarterfinal appearance, was finishing school.
"It's a great opportunity to be here," London said. "I'm so thankful to be given this privilege. I'm a caretaker and I'm a servant, because I serve the student-athletes in which I'm in charge of and the coaches and their families.
"I'm a caretaker of the university's reputation, in the athletic and academic arenas, and that's a challenge I'm looking forward to."
London is the stylistic antithesis of his predecessor and former boss, Aggrieved
London wears his heart on his sleeve. If he mentioned the importance of relationships once in Monday's nearly hourlong press conference at John Paul Jones Arena, he mentioned it a dozen times.
Relationships with players, with recruits, with high school coaches, with fans and alumni, with professors and academic administrators, with the community, with the entire state. The man is
with a blitz package.
Many of those relationships had been, shall we say, compromised under Groh. Fans stayed away in droves last season, and the program suffered as many of the state's top-shelf recruiting targets increasingly turned a deaf ear to the Cavaliers and leaned toward Blacksburg.
"When you say, 'Come to my game or come to my venue,' if you haven't been to theirs, if you haven't been in their communities, then why would they come to yours?" London said. "So there's a lot of work to do. But we'll be hard at work in making sure we get that corrected."
London will be more visible and less verbose than Groh, who rarely used 10 words when 25 would suffice and who didn't permit his assistant coaches to speak to the media, lest it interfere with the "one program, one voice" edict practiced by his
mentors and compadres, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.
Granted, access to assistants might seem a niggling annoyance outside the realm of us media gerbils. Perhaps it is when a team wins, and everything is jake, and the head coach is happy to talk about all topics from his scheduling philosophy to third-string linebackers.
When the program careens toward the dumper and the citizenry begins to grumble, however, that sort of policy comes across as arrogant and a bit like Capt. Queeg minus the strawberries.
Anyway, when asked whether his assistant coaches will be available to talk, London offered a simple and wry, "Yes."
From the X-and-O side, where Groh was wedded to the 3-linemen, 4-linebacker scheme as Virginia's base defense, London said he plans to employ a 4-3.
Schemes, though, aren't what separate London from Groh, or from many others, for that matter. London, in fact, always minimizes his playbook chops. For him, it always has been, and always will be about people.
"In any situation," he said, "it's all about the players playing for you. Everyone that knows me knows I'm a big relationship guy. And I think that's a critical element in any team, in any organization, in any relationship."
London talked about the idea that committed relationships with his players off the field can translate to more comfortable and confident performances on the field.
A couple of times Monday, he used the old coaching bromide: "People don't care about how much you know until they know how much you care."
London's personal commitment and passion put Virginia's wheels in motion as soon as Appalachian State defeated the Spiders.
"As much as I wanted Mike to win on Saturday," Virginia executive associate athletic director Jon Oliver said, "it really helped for us to be able to get him in here today."
A fruit basket and maybe a nice holiday wreath made of fresh-cut greens might be on the way to Boone, N.C., as we speak.
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at