UC Davis athletic director Terry Tumey interviewed almost a dozen candidates, inquired about the interest of several others, and then went with his gut, with the guy right down the street.
Energetic, animated, thoughtful, intense, respected. The new Aggies football coach is all that. He also has friends in high places, including the NFL. During his 16 seasons as an assistant at Cal, Gould recruited and developed running backs J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, Shane Vereen and Jahvid Best, the injured Detroit Lions running back who sat quietly in the middle of the room during Monday's introductory news conference.
"A lot of coaches who recruited me guaranteed that I was going to start," Best said. "But Coach G said, 'I'm going to recruit the best players, and the best players are going to play.' That stuck with me. It seemed like he was the only one who was honest."
Gould, who's married with two sons, has never been a head coach. His résumé includes stops as an assistant at Portland State and Boise State, and it is worth noting he was retained by the recently departed Jeff Tedford when Tom Holmoe was fired in 2001. Survival instincts are critical these days in budget-battered college athletics. Apparently, even some former players with deep Aggies roots had reservations about the UC Davis program, still in its Big Sky Conference infancy.
Before the year-long search for Bob Biggs' replacement ended with Monday's announcement, for example, Tumey said he was unable to entice ex-Aggies Mike Bellotti and Dan Hawkins to interview.
But Gould, 47, couldn't wait to knock down the door. He pushed, he pulled. He badly wanted the job, and just as important, he needed a job when incoming Cal coach Sonny Dykes replaced most of Tedford's staff.
"This is fortuitous," Tumey said, "and Ron's fit is outstanding. He has a terrific legacy here on the West Coast, not just as a recruiter and a great coach but, really, as one of the best people in college athletics."
Gould, who charmed an audience Monday that included Biggs and UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi, readily acknowledged the obvious the deal at UCD is all about recruiting. The rap on the so-so Aggies is that too many current players would have been standouts on Biggs' dominant Division II teams but lack the talent to distinguish themselves at the next level.
With 22 seniors leaving, Gould can make over the roster, which he promises will be balanced offensively despite a background that includes nurturing nine 1,000-yard rushers during his last 11 years in Berkeley. Gould, a fitness buff who routinely dropped for push-ups during lulls at Bears practices, also vows to be relentless, innovative and unintimidated by the challenges.
Gould knows challenges. He has overcome tremendous hardship. He has waited a long, long time for this opportunity.
Standing in the back of the campus conference room after the official announcement, Gould spoke at length about losing his mother in an auto accident when he was in the eighth grade; about his father's imprisonment and recidivism; about exaggerating his age on a work permit to qualify for a job as a busboy; about shuttling among relatives in Tucson, Ariz., before moving in with a boyhood friend.
"Me and this guy, Neal Reizer, whom I call my brother, we lived in a house his dad rented," said Gould, a onetime star defensive back at Tucson's Santa Rita High School. "We kind of took care of each other. We went to school and got good grades. Sometimes we didn't know what we were going to eat. And then his dad left, too, and left us alone in the house. But that's OK, because it all worked out."
Gould attended Scottsdale Community College, earned a scholarship to Wichita State, then transferred to Oregon when the Shockers dropped football in 1986. After he earned a degree in criminal studies, coaching seemed like a natural next step.
Portland State. Boise State. Cal. And the step after that? Finally, the call from UC Davis.