Doba on sidelines again as head coach after 26 years as assistant

Updated: August 26, 2003, 8:16 PM ET

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The last time Bill Doba paced the sidelines as a head coach, he was closing out a successful career at Indiana high schools.

That was at Mishawaka, Ind., High School in 1976.

From there he moved on to assistant coaching jobs at Indiana, Purdue, The Citadel and Washington State. Now he is head coach at Washington State, which opens the season Saturday against cross-border rival Idaho at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle.

"I'm a little bit apprehensive," Doba said in his first pre-game teleconference from Pullman on Tuesday. "It's my first time in 25 years. Being a high school coach is an entirely different thing."

Actually, Doba spent 26 seasons as an assistant before being appointed head coach last December, after former coach Mike Price announced he was leaving WSU for what became a short-lived head coaching job at Alabama.

A South Bend, Ind., native, Doba said he succeeded as a defensive coordinator because Price "left me alone." That's something he plans to continue with his assistants, offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller and defensive coordinator Robb Akey.

"Here, I have, I think, quality assistants, people I really trust," Doba said. "I think they can do a great job."

Doba said his job is to "make the right decisions ... just try to manage the game" -- on offense and defense.

"When you are a coordinator, you don't think about the other side of the ball," he said. "I have to try to get some balance in both offense and defense. Otherwise, I watch the game just like you do."

As Price's assistant, Doba, 62, helped develop a string of NFL-bound defensive players, culminating with All-America defensive tackle Rien Long, who won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman last season.

Doba was hired at Washington State less than a month after Price arrived from Weber State in 1989 and became the Cougars' defensive coordinator in 1994.

As an assistant, Doba was known for getting good performances out of marginal players and great performances out of better athletes. The 1994 team finished second in the nation in defense and won the Alamo Bowl.

After all those years as an assistant, Doba sounds like a head coach when asked about lightly regarded Idaho of the Sun Belt Conference.

"The bookies have got us way out in front, but I don't gamble and I don't read that part of the paper any more," Doba told reporters. "Anything can happen. I'm always concerned. You always have to respect your opponent."

Does he have first game nerves?

"They kicked in about four months ago," Doba deadpanned. "It seems to me to be less pressure being head coach than coordinator. I had to get a product ready for coach Price every week. Now, that burden's on Akey and Levenseller. I really don't feel that nervous."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index