Dream season for Diaz, father Hurricanes defensive coordinator, former Miami mayor celebrate UM win streak.
CORAL GABLES — A security alarm sounded at a residence in the Miami suburb of Kendall West, near Miller Drive and 102nd Ave, around 10 p.m. Saturday. Police did not respond to the scene. No crime was reported.
However, you might say the alarm was triggered by a theft.
“I talked to my mother, his Cuban grandmother, this morning,” Manny Diaz Sr. said by phone Sunday. “She told me she got so excited when (Trajan) Bandy got the Pick Six, she started jumping and screaming so loud that the alarm in the house went off.”
The Hurricanes have been making that kind of noise lately, riding the raucous environment at Hard Rock Stadium all the way to the top of the polls. The latest team to be chased away, fingers blocking their ears: third-ranked Notre Dame, which was spanked by unbeaten Miami (9-0, 6-0) on the same day the Hurricanes clinched a spot in the Dec. 2 ACC Championship Game.
It makes Diaz Sr., the former Miami mayor, wonder if reality is a dream.
His son, second-year UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, spent the first 18 years of his coaching career in places like Raleigh, N.C. and Austin, Texas. Now he’s home. In Miami’s championship days of the 1980s, Diaz Sr. was a young lawyer who shared custody of his son. They bonded over the Canes, and rarely missed a game in the Orange Bowl.
Now, the younger Diaz has Miami’s defense looking like those dominant units of the past. And his father is watching it all from the sideline.
“Oh, my God,” Diaz Sr. said, pausing. “I have a hard time not choking up every time, you know? It’s just so exciting. I’m so proud of him. The whole family is proud of him. Having him in Miami, doing what he’s doing, it’s just incredible. Absolutely incredible.”
When his son was building his career in Tallahassee and Raleigh, got his first job as a defensive coordinator in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and then moved from Starkville, Miss., to Austin, to Ruston, La., and Starkville again, the bond didn’t break.
“No matter where he was, we’ve always talked about the Canes,” Diaz Sr. said. “That’s what was in his heart. This is where he grew up. It’s his hometown team. I don’t care where he is. This is deep in his heart. It was always about Miami.
“For him to come back ... I’m seeing him on the sidelines with Ed Reed, thinking, ‘You were a kid going to games, watching Ed Reed and Warren Sapp and all the rest.’ Now he’s bringing them on campus to talk to the players. It’s surreal. It really is an incredible experience — for me, and I can only imagine for him.”
Diaz, in his postgame comments, said something that resonated with Hurricanes fans everywhere:
“This is, to me, natural order restored,” he said. “This is the way a Saturday night in Miami should be.”
His words recalled those nights in the Orange Bowl, when teams not wearing orange and green had a hard time believing they had a chance. These Hurricanes are building that sort of fear.
Along the way, Diaz is building a resume.
He is 43, sharp and charismatic, and leader of one of the nation’s best defenses. For the second year in a row, and the fourth time in his 11-year career as a defensive coordinator, Diaz is up for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach. Should Miami march on to the College Football Playoff, Diaz might be a lock to win it.
But, there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s wearing Cuban links.
Diaz will certainly get calls this offseason, and in offseasons to come, to be a head coach.
His father takes a pragmatic approach, while basking in this dream season. After all, he used to buy Hurricanes gear for his son. Now, he’s the proud owner of a Turnover Chain T-shirt.
“We don’t talk about it,” he said. “Our lives, my life, and his, have always been a surprise. Every year after the bowl game, you’re sitting next to the phone waiting for the call — ‘Hey, here’s where I’m going.’ Like (Dec. 2015), it was, ‘Hey, I’m coming home!’ ‘What?’ So you just never know.
“Manny and I are very similar that way. What’s important right now for him is Virginia, period, end of story. One game at a time. Let’s keep winning. If and when something happens, we’ll think about it. For now, it’s all about winning the next game.”