STANFORD, Calif. — It took more than a change in titles for Stanford players to accept David Shaw's promotion after he replaced Jim Harbaugh.
Shortly after Shaw opened his first spring practice, the former offensive coordinator noticed some defensive players were not quite as comfortable with him yet, a few maybe even unsure of his abilities.
"Just to show that I'm not the offensive coordinator who's sitting in the coach's office, I made sure that when an offensive lineman stepped out of line, I grabbed him and made sure he pulled back," Shaw said. "If somebody cheap-shotted Shayne Skov, I came to the linebacker's defense, just so they could truly see that I'm everybody's coach."
If a coach's success is measured by wins and losses, then so far Shaw is perfect.
No. 4 Stanford (8-0, 6-0 Pac-12) is undefeated and Shaw is making a run to become only the third rookie head coach to win a national title. While questions about his coaching skills might not be completely answered for years, how Shaw would handle his ascension is no longer in question.
Inheriting a program with Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck and enough talent to claim championships came with immediate pressure. Succeeding a charismatic coach like Harbaugh, now with the San Francisco 49ers, presented another set of challenges altogether.
Shaw has seamlessly overcome them all.
"I think David is very good at developing relationships," Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said. "Relationships with the players, relationships with the staff, relationships with the support personnel. I think he has gone above the process of being a head coach.
"Obviously he didn't inherit a cupboard that was bare," Bowlsby said. "But he has done a great job with the transition."
As he heads to Oregon State on Saturday before next week's season-defining game against No. 6 Oregon, Shaw has Stanford riding the nation's longest winning streak at 16 games and chasing not just a Pac-12 title but also a BCS championship.
Shaw has emerged from the shadow of the man who rebuilt Stanford and is doing things even Harbaugh never did on The Farm — such as starting 8-0 — while putting his own stamp on the program.
Shaw does not sleep in his office or work 20-hour days. He avoids scheduling early morning meetings so assistant coaches can have breakfast with their kids and take them to school.
Often times his wife, Kori, and their three children — Keegan, Carter and Gavin — are waiting after practice. On Tuesday nights, the coaches and their families meet for dinner in the athletic offices before late-night meetings.
"Jim started it. I would say I accentuated it even more, just because I'm a coach's kid too," said Shaw, whose father, Willie, had two stints as a Stanford assistant and also coached in the NFL. "I know the hours that we work. We can do both. We can do a great job coaching, a great job in the film room, a great job on the field and be able to see our kids. A friend used to tell me about balance.
"When I have balance," Shaw said. "I'm better at everything."
Few have even come close to what Shaw is trying to achieve.
In the 2001 season, Larry Coker led Miami to a BCS championship and became the first rookie coach to win a national title since Bennie Oosterbaan did it with Michigan in 1948. Coker, now at Texas-San Antonio, came into a situation similar to Shaw's.
He had been the offensive coordinator for six years under Butch Davis, who left for the NFL's Cleveland Browns after leading the Hurricanes to an 11-1 season and a victory over rival Florida in the Sugar Bowl. While tradition-rich Miami already owned four national titles, the pressure on Shaw at Stanford is not so different.
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