IOWA CITY — When Ken O’Keefe first got to know Kirk Ferentz in 1978, he was the head coach at Worcester (Massachusetts) Academy and Ferentz was his assistant.
When the two men next worked together, in 1999, O’Keefe became the offensive coordinator under Ferentz at Iowa. Brian Ferentz, the head coach’s son, was then just a husky high school sophomore who eventually became the center for O’Keefe’s offense.
Now O’Keefe is coming back to Iowa as the quarterbacks coach and he will be reporting to two Ferentzes. Kirk is still the head coach and Brian is now the offensive coordinator.
“I’m in the de-evolution of my career,’’ O’Keefe joked as he chatted with reporters prior to Sunday’s Iowa-Nebraska basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I’ve been the head coach and the coordinator and now I’m the position coach. Pretty soon I’ll be a GA again. … It’s all good and it will be great.’’
O’Keefe, 63, held his hand about thigh-high to show how tall Brian Ferentz was the first time he met him. He said while it might seem like an odd dynamic to have a 33-year-old ex-protégé as a boss, he doesn’t expect it to be a problem.
“I think it will be awesome,’’ O’Keefe said. “I know him pretty well. I understand his personality. I’ve coached him before and we’ve known each other for a long, long time. I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be fun.’’
Asked if he might be able to give Brian a few tips since the younger Ferentz now holds a position O’Keefe had for 13 years, the new QB coach shook his head.
“You’re looking at a guy who spent four years with the Patriots and one of the best football minds — maybe the best football mind ever — in Bill Bellichik and then five years here as the line coach,’’ O’Keefe said. “I wish I had that base when I was his age to jump in and start going. He’s absolutely ready to do whatever he needs to do in his position as offensive coordinator.’’
O’Keefe left Iowa in 2011 to serve as the Miami Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach. He worked for the Dolphins last season in a non-coaching, advance scouting position and said it really was a pretty easy decision when Kirk Ferentz called and asked if he was interested in returning to Iowa.
“I’m just really glad that he was interested in the position and most importantly that he accepted it …’’ Ferentz said Sunday.
“I just think now everybody on our staff is going to benefit from his wealth of experience on a lot of levels.’’
O’Keefe said he is excited about the changes he has seen in Iowa City in the five years he was gone and he wasn’t just talking about the “amazing’’ new football complex that was built in that time. He also noticed there is now a Dunkin Donuts, joking that he once wanted to buy a Dunkin Donuts franchise but his wife wouldn’t let him.
He admitted he doesn’t know much yet about the players he will be coaching, including freshman quarterback Nathan Stanley, who served as the backup to graduating senior C.J. Beathard last season.
“I’ve looked at all 12 of Stanley’s throws,’’ O’Keefe said. “I’m still looking for some of the other ones that the other guys have made …
“I think that’s what we have spring ball for. We’re all here to find out more about each other.’’