Coach Willingham, fired as coach at the University of Washington in late October, was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year twice during his time at Stanford, where the school's former AD called the match between the university and Coach Willingham as a "perfect fit."
Todd Husak, who played for Coach Willingham at Stanford "said he believes that... Washington was a bad match from the start."
At Notre Dame, Coach Willigham went 21-15 and played in two bowl games in three seasons. In comparison, current ND coach Charlie Weis is 28-21 in four seasons, though just 9-15 the last two seasons since replacing Willingham.
Tara VanDerveer, the women's hoops coach at Stanford and a friend of Coach Willingham, agreed with Husak about finding a good match.
"I think it's about getting the right fit, getting the right players, being at a place that appreciates what you do. It is all about fit."
According to Roy Lewis, who played for Coach Willingham at Washington (and is now on the Steelers' practice squad), says that, for some reason, the coach's message wasn't getting through.
"I don't think he got across to enough players, and sometimes that could lead to a lot of different opinions as far as players are concerned. The whole thing when you're coaching a team is to make sure everybody is buying into what's going on, and if you don't have guys buying in, that definitely makes the job tough. It doesn't matter how great of a coach you are, if you don't have guys who want to believe and buy in to a program, then ultimately the program won't do so well."