Durkin: Working with Harbaugh 'absolute mayhem'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh

New Maryland coach D.J. Durkin, who spent last season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, in an extensive interview with Sports Illustrated, described former bosses Jim Harbaugh as being drawn to “confrontation, chaos, conflict” and shared a story about how he landed his first job with uber-intense Urban Meyer.

Durkin has unique insight into both men having worked for Harbaugh at Stanford and Michigan and for Meyer at Bowling Green.

He described his early years with Harbaugh and the Cardinal as “absolute mayhem.”

“When I first got there, it was like, oh my gosh,” Durkin told Pete Thamel of SI. ‘Then you finally spend more time with Jim. The guy is really smart. Extremely smart. Everything is for a reason, but he loves chaos. That's just how he operates. He loves confrontation, chaos, conflict. He doesn't want it to be everyone comfortable, this is the schedule. He just loves throwing a wrench in the works.

“So, when you first get there, it's like, what's going on? But it was great. To see someone impose their will, their confidence, their vision on a program, to totally change it — total 180. Stanford was known as a soft, academic, wine-sipping program. Now it's the total opposite. He definitely imposed his will on the place.”

During his first interview with Meyer while at Bowling Green, he said Meyer shredded him.

“The first time I went in there, he ripped me up and down for 30 minutes.” Durkin said. “He tried to talk me out of it, made sure I wanted to do it. So then he was like, "Well, you need to think about this. Come back and see me in two days.

Urban Meyer

“So, I came back and he's sitting behind his desk and he looked away from me when I walked in. The secretary told him I was here, so he looked when I walked in, but then never looked again. He was looking at his computer, doing something and was talking to me. ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yeah, coach, I'm sure.’ Then he suddenly (jumped up) and got this far from me. ‘Are you sure?’ I didn't even know the guy at the time. I was like, ‘Uhhhh, yeah, OK.’ I walked out of his office like, What the heck did I just do?”

Durkin told Sports Illustrated that Harbaugh and Meyer are both driven by competitiveness.

“Not money or fame,” he said. “It's simple competitiveness. And so that's the overwhelming thing. But the way they operate or think or run their program is drastically different.”

Thamel ended the interview asking about the time Durkin played Harbaugh in one-on-one at Stanford.

“It was a random day in the office,” he said. “We were meeting, talking about something, and he was dribbling a basketball. We were talking about something — recruiting or something — and the conversation somehow got to, ‘Hey, let's go out and play.’

“So we went to play one-on-one. First to seven. Great. So we're playing. I went up for a layup or something, he fouled — I mean, hacked me. And I didn't call it. I didn't expect him to call foul. No, we're good. Check up.

“Then it became, OK, if that's not a foul, there are no fouls. So the game went on for — the reason it became epic— it was over an hour-long game. To seven. And people are up there watching. No one wanted to lose, and no one would call a foul. So it was, if the guy got a step on you, chuck him in the back, lose the ball. Nope, no foul. Good, your ball. So it went on. It was well over an hour. A game to seven.”

Who won?

“He won,” Durkin said. “I let him win in the end. Job security.”