As Houston Nutt spoke before the assembled reporters at SEC Media Days, he seemed not just excited to be the head coach at Ole Miss -- every new coach at least says they want to be there -- but also relaxed and relieved to be away from Arkansas.
Can you blame him? Fans used the open-records laws to pore over his phone records, hired planes to carry anti-Nutt banners and revolted because he decided that leaning heavily on Darren McFadden and Felix Jones made more sense than leaning heavily on Mitch Mustain. The latter would seem to be a self-evident truth, but the disaffection of Mustain was the beginning of the end of Nutt's time in Arkansas.
On Thursday, Nutt was glowing about the beginning of his time in Oxford.
"But to walk in the Ford Theater and have 1,500 people, then later find out that 500, 600 people were turned away, I can't tell you how we felt that day," he said. "That was a day full of goosebumps, just re-energized us from that moment forward."
And it's obvious that Nutt is still bitter about what happened during the denoument of his time with the Hogs. There was a little edge in his voice when he was asked whether there would be fewer lifelong coaches going forward, and even more edge in his words.
"More talk-show radios, more Internet blogs [C&F: There's another kind of blog?], more people can say anything without any accountability," he said. "Sometimes things are written that really puts a lot of pressure on the atheltic director. It makes it very, very tough for a coach."
Not that Nutt didn't cause some of his own problems. Excessive texting to an attractive female anchor will draw attention. Losing early in the year can almost never be offset by winning later.
But now he's got a new start. And he's hoping to reinvigorate Ole Miss, a program that has struggled mightily since firing David Cutcliffe -- soon rather than later.
"We want to win right now," he said. "I think it would be unfair to say, 'Okay, we're going to rebuild, just kind of gradually' -- I think it's unfair for your seniors. ... I can't do that. We're not going to build that way."
The players, for now, seem to be buying in. They might be relieved, too. After all, Nutt might be crazy, but he's not going to bare his chest and challenge the team to a fight.
"He's a great coach, and he'll do a lot for us this year," said uber-offensive lineman Michael Oher, he of the Michael Lewis book. "He knows what to do and what to say, and what he says, we do because we respect him."
At least until Ole Miss fans get their hands on his phone records.