WSU running backs coach Jim Mastro, who said he was Chris Ault's personal choice to replace him as head coach at Nevada, said Sunday he will remain at Washington State because of his friendship with Cougars head coach Mike Leach.
"I was never, ever going to take that job at Nevada," Mastro said. "I have a better job where I am."
The Cougars already lost linebackers coach Jeff Choate to UTEP and inside receivers coach Eric Morris to Texas Tech. Mastro still owns a home in Reno, where he coached running backs under Ault from 2000-10, and his name was mentioned prominently among candidates to replace the retiring Ault.
"He wanted me to succeed him," Mastro said. "We talked about that for years. When I left (to coach at UCLA in 2011), it was time to leave. Because I built the house in Reno, everybody thought, ‘Oh, that's why he's building the house in Reno: He's going to come back here and be the head guy.'
"I built the house in Reno because I want to retire here some day. But I didn't want anything to do with that (replacing Ault)."
Mastro said he did not interview at Nevada, even though "all the people in Reno wanted me to come back.
"But Mike's my friend. I made a commitment to Mike. Me and Mike have talked for 12 years about this day we finally get to work together."
The friendship between Mastro and Leach began when Mastro was a running back at Cal Poly in 1987, when Leach began his college coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Mustangs. They briefly served as GA's together at Poly before Leach left prior to the 1988 season.
"In this profession, to work for your friend, that's hard (rare)," Mastro said. "Sometimes, you go into a staff, you don't know anybody. This is my friend. Our families are friends. Our wives are friends."
Mastro's loyalty to Leach remains strong despite a disappointing 3-9 season in their first year at WSU.
"I learned more this year than I've learned in my last 21 years of coaching," Mastro said. "Just trying to change a culture. These kids just didn't understand; they just really didn't know how to win. It was like losing was OK. It was, ‘Oh well, here we go again.' I mean, you have a coaching staff that's won a lot of games and gone to a lot of bowl games. So this (losing) for us was new, too. I mean, we got challenged."
Mastro said players "started to turn the corner" late in the season.
"We're going to win, and we're going to win big," Mastro said. "I want to be part of this."
CBSSports.com reported that Nevada is expected to hire former Stanford recruiting coordinator Brian Polian. The latter is currently the special teams and tight ends coach at Texas A&M under former Washington State graduate assistant Kevin Sumlin.