Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 12/23/11
LAS VEGAS -- Dennis Erickson didn't want to address the media following Arizona State's 56-24 loss to Boise State at Sam Boyd Stadium. After 42 years of coaching, he was tired of the questions, tired of the criticism, tired of the sea of voices dissecting his every move and word. In the wake of his firing, he probably deserved a pass. But he showed up just the same. And as he warmed to the occasion, we were reminded that what defines a man -- even a coach -- is never so simple as wins and losses. "It's very emotional," Erickson said of what might have been the final game of his career in Thursday's Las Vegas Bowl. "This thing came so darn fast when they fired us. It was like a month. You went from a contract extension to being sent down the highway." Forget the details of this game. Forget Arizona State's brief flirtation with momentum in the second half. Forget Boise State's dominance. It was a foregone conclusion the moment the Sun Devils' plane landed. They may have put on a brave face in pre-bowl practices. They may have talked of a fresh start. But like this city of grand facades and little substance, the Devils had nothing to back up the talk after a winless November robbed this season of meaning and cost the entire coaching staff their jobs. "It was difficult on them," Erickson said. The Sun Devils packed it in before this game was ever played -- kind of like the outgoing staff, which was kicked out of its offices and forced to turn in its keys on Monday by a new staff and an athletic department that apparently couldn't do the classy thing and wait a week for the bodies to cool. Are you ready for the Todd Graham era? It can't be worse than what we just witnessed, right? The Sun Devils (6-7) lost their final five games in 2011, eerily mimicking the fate that befell in-state rival Arizona last season. In his final four seasons at ASU, Erickson posted three losing seasons and one .500 season. This team is clearly in need of a fresh voice. Maybe Graham will resurrect this lifeless team. Maybe he'll bring discipline to a club that committed five more personal fouls on Thursday while he watched from the press box. Maybe he'll make Vontaze Burfict's decision a little easier by handing him his walking papers and wishing him luck in the NFL. Maybe Graham will stick around long enough to bring wins. But none of that seemed important as Erickson sat in front of reporters, offering final thoughts with his usual blend of candor, grace and humor. When asked his favorite part of coaching he smiled: "Oh, press conferences. There's no question I would be good at your job." And his second favorite part? "The players. That's what it's all about," he said. "The relationships you have with players and assistant coaches." Erickson wants to coach again and he wouldn't close the door on that possibility Thursday night. "I don't know if that's it for me, but you have to have opportunities," he said. "I'm going to stay in football. That's all I know. I won't become a math teacher. I'll promise you that." Just in case that next opportunity doesn't come, Erickson scripted a classy exit in spite of Thursday's final score. "I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had fun, I've had some bad days, but football is the greatest game in the world," he said. "I'm glad I got the opportunity to spend a lot of time in it."
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