After getting fired twice in 13 months, Tim Lester is now at his dream job

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 19, 2019 at 1:16 am Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham Tim Lester’s phone rang on a Friday and he was expecting the call. He was at home on the couch in West Lafayette, Indiana, with his wife, Dawn, and their 3-year-old son, Camden. His two older sons, Cooper and Carter, 7 and 5 years old at the time, were at school.It was January 2017 and a year ago, Lester was sloughed off the SU coaching staff payroll when Dino Babers took over for Scott Shafer. He chose to be the quarterbacks coach at Purdue but was similarly out of a job a year later. The Lesters were looking at their second relocation in 13 months.On the other end of the line was Kathy Beauregard, Western Michigan’s athletic director, who offered Lester the head coaching position. She told Lester that he needed to be in Kalamazoo, Michigan, by 5:30 p.m. that evening so he could sign his yet-to-be-negotiated contract and meet with his new team at 6 p.m.“He looked at me and he gave me a thumbs-up,” Dawn said. “And then he got off the phone and he was like, ‘That’s it. I got it. We gotta go. Let’s go pack.’”Being the head coach at Western Michigan was Lester’s dream job when he played there as a quarterback in the 1990s. It was his dream, but he didn’t get the job in 2012 because he needed some more experience. And it was still a dream when he left Syracuse — where he returns for the first time as a head coach on Saturday — in 2015.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMaryland wanted him to coach wide receivers and Toledo offered him an offensive coordinator position, the same job he had at SU. Purdue needed a quarterbacks coach. Lester leaned toward keeping his job title. A conversation with his college coach, Gary Darnell, changed Lester’s perspective. Lester remembered Darnell asking him what his dream job was.“I’d love to be at Western when P.J. leaves,” Lester answered.“Well they’re never going to hire the offensive coordinator from Toledo,” Darnell said.Amy Nakamura | Co-Digital EditorAfter Lester got hired over the phone, he and Dawn briefly celebrated with Camden before hustling upstairs. They rapidly threw clothes into suitcases as Camden tried packing his stuffed animals.Dawn got behind the wheel and picked the older boys up from Burnett Creek Elementary. She decided not to take Interstate-94, using two-lane state highways. As Indiana faded into Michigan, Lester sat in the passenger seat, working his phone. He called his parents, he called friends and he called his agent, because between then and Lester’s arrival in Kalamazoo, they had to work out a contract.He also began writing a speech to his new his team that he’d meet at 6 p.m. that night. When the Lesters arrived, they dropped the kids at a hotel with Lester’s mother, Pat, before Lester put a pen to paper and made his five-year deal at Western Michigan official.He went to meet the team while Dawn went to check on the kids. Later, she met her husband at a recruiting event. Just hours after signing his contract, a day before the announcement was even public, he bowled with 13 recruits, already trying to build the program he’d just took charge of.Dawn found the whole day — the call, the rush out the door and the immediate dive into the job — all surreal. That morning she woke up in Indiana, took the kids to school and had no reason to expect her day would unfold as it had.“It was just a whirlwind of a day,” Dawn said.His new experience and close proximity made him a worthy successor to P.J. Fleck, WMU’s departing coach. And on a January afternoon in the passenger seat of his white Chevrolet Suburban, Lester went from unemployed for the second time in a year to holding the position he had coveted for 20-plus years.“This has been my dream job since when I played here,” Lester said. “I love this place. This is my goal.”Though he took a demotion in title and pay to go to Purdue from Syracuse, he moved closer to his goal, closer to his home in Illinois, coaching at a Division I program. And like Darnell said to him, if he went and had a good year with quarterback David Blough, whom Lester tried to get at SU, that’d put him on the radar as a potential head coach.Blough threw for 3,352 yards in 2016, third in the Big Ten that season. But Purdue finished 3-9 and head coach Darrell Hazell, along with his staff, were out the door. Lester began to look for other jobs.“We got fired,” Lester said, “but we almost led the Big Ten in passing, which allowed me to get this job.”When Fleck left for Minnesota after the 2017 Cotton Bowl, Lester hung onto offers to be a coordinator in the Atlantic Coast Conference and a quarterbacks coach for a ranked team. But he wanted to wait it out and see if the job at WMU opened up. He finally had the experience he lacked before when he didn’t get the job in 2012.While Lester addressed his team the night of his signing, Dawn drove past Waldo Stadium on her way to see the kids. It all set in when she saw a message on the video boards in bright, bold letters.It read: “Welcome home Tim Lester.” Commentslast_img

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