By Bobby La Gesse
Tribune News Service
The best way to reach Mark Mangino about his return to Kansas wasn't in person.
It was through his cell phone.
Mangino tried talking down his return trip on Saturday (2:30 p.m., FSN) to the school he once led to an Orange Bowl title on Tuesday. He seemed to be more receptive to talking to former Jayhawks who contacted him on his mobile device.
"There is probably more messages and phone calls I'm going to be able to return this week," Mangino said.
He's trying not to let nostalgia get the better of him. Not with the Cyclones trying to rebound after dropping their last two games.
"We are a team that needs to win a game," Mangino said. "That is what I'm focused on. We need to get on the right track here and get a win and play well."
Mangino deflected most questions about Kansas. He joked he couldn't talk about what he was most proud of because the answer was too long, and he needed to get back and watch tape.
"I enjoyed my time coaching there," Mangino said. "I met a lot of nice people. I coached some incredibly good, great, football players, great kids, but that doesn't really have anything to do with (the present). I am at Iowa State."
When he was at Kansas he brought a program to heights it rarely saw before, and hasn't seen since. He went 50-48 from 2002-09. He turned the perennial Big 12 cellar dweller into a top 10 program.
The Jayhawks went 12-1, won the Orange Bowl, and finished the season ranked No. 7 in 2007.
"Some of the teams we had at Kansas weren't always the most talented," Mangino said, "but, boy, those kids played their tails off and gave their best every day. That is all you can ask as a coach."
ISU offensive line coach Brandon Blaney and wide receiver coach Tommy Mangino were on Mangino's Kansas staff. Blaney served as an offensive line and tight ends coach while Tommy Mangino was a graduate assistant.
Allegations arose during the 2009 season about verbal and physical player mistreatment. Mangino resigned that December.
"There are some things I could have handled differently at times there, but overall I'm proud of my work and I stand behind it without a doubt," Mangino said when he was hired in January. "As coaches, there was never a situation where myself or anybody crossed the line. I am very comfortable with my tenure there and very proud of it."
Kansas is 11-45 with only two Big 12 wins since Mangino left.
"I get no satisfaction at all from that," Mangino said. "In fact, not only myself, but many assistant coaches, trainers, strength coaches, work tirelessly to make the program respectable and to see that it's not taking place at this point and time, to me, I am disappointed."
Head coach Paul Rhoads has yet to see a different Mangino this week. He thinks it's because Mangino is familiar with returning to prior coaching jobs. He served as an assistant at Kansas State and Oklahoma.
"This is his third time through the backyard, if you will, of an old stop," Rhoads said.
The ISU offense is showing signs of improvement under Mangino. The Cyclones scored 82 points against Texas and Toledo before being held to 14 points against No. 16 Oklahoma last week.
Also, quarterback Sam Richardson took a step forward this season. He's thrown for 1,938 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"He's made me a very intelligent player, him and (quarterback coach Todd) Sturdy together," Richardson said. "I'm learning new stuff that I never would have learned given past years, but it's something he's teaching me a lot about football, and I've grown as a player because of it."
But Mangino didn't see enough progress against the Sooners. He thought the passing game was erratic and receivers dropped too many passes.
There is a lot for him to work on in the coming days. So it may take Mangino a while to get back to the Kansas folks reaching out this week.