The first-year Wildcats weren't the only newcomers contributing to Weber State's season-opening victory over Arizona Christian in men's basketball last Saturday.
Assistant coach Keith Berard was on the Wildcats' bench for his first official game since joining WSU coach Randy Rahe's staff in June.
Berard, who previously coached at Houston Baptist and Texas Southern, is familiar with the state, having played college basketball for two seasons at Southern Utah (1993-95) and coached for three at College of Eastern Utah.
The Houston, Texas, native says he's learning Weber State's system alongside the players. Berard replaced former assistant Tim Gardner, who left to pursue other professional opportunities.
"I'm like the new guys. I'm trying to figure everything out," Berard said. "I'm picking things up slowly, but it's basketball when it comes down to it."
Making adjustments is part of the profession.
"Coaches, we move all the time. We try not to, but you just have to adapt and adjust to the system that you're going to," Berard said. "The system that I've come from in the past, we were more of a get-the-ball-out, run-and-gun system. Here it's more, we're going to run our stuff, run our sets. It's a great system and the system works."
While he was at CEU, Berard crossed paths for the first time with Rahe, who was an assistant at Utah State at the time. Later, Rahe and Berard established a connection through mutual friend Tarvish Felton, a current USU assistant who joined Stew Morrill's staff a few years after Rahe left Logan for Weber State.
Berard and Felton will be reunited Nov. 24 when Weber State makes the short trip to take on the Aggies in the Smith Spectrum.
Rahe said Berard, who briefly played professional basketball in Switzerland, fits well with the Wildcats' staff.
"He's a really good person, all the things that I was looking for," Rahe said of Berard. "It's like when you sign a player: I look for character, I look for work ethic, guys that are going to get along well with each other. No egos. Keith fits all those areas really well."
And Berard is happy to be in Ogden. He and his wife have two daughters, Katelyn and Khloe.
"This was an opportunity I couldn't pass," Berard said. "I've been in Utah, this is my third time and I love it out here."
A year ago, Weber State's football team played its final game at Stewart Stadium in the snow, just like last Saturday. The Wildcats won retiring coach Ron McBride's last home game, then won another on the road at Portland State to send McBride out with two straight victories in 2011.
Weber State has had two football coaches since then -- John L. Smith, who only stayed for a few months before leaving for Arkansas, and interim coach Jody Sears, who originally came to WSU as Smith's defensive coordinator.
After the Wildcats' loss to Northern Colorado on Saturday dropped Weber State to 1-9 for the season (1-6 Big Sky), senior quarterback Mike Hoke was asked how much the turmoil of the offseason has affected the team's performance this year.
"Honestly, I don't really think it did," Hoke answered. "In my opinion, I honestly don't know, but I don't think the off the field stuff had anything to do with how we performed on the field. If anything, it made us come closer as a team. We just relied on each other more. I think everyone is still kind of unsure why we're performing this way because, the players we have, this is just unacceptable.
Senior defensive end Trevor Pletcher, another Weber State captain like Hoke, said there were some lessons he can take from the Wildcats' struggles.
"I'm a very competitive person in everything I do," he said. "I go out there and play, I want to play for my team but at the same time, I want to play to prove that I'm better than the person in front of me. This year, how the season went, it shows you that even though you're not having the outcomes you want, you can still perform and have the 'want-to' to succeed. If I can take anything from this season, it's that I'm always going to be competitive and never going to let something hold me down."
Weber State finishes its season Saturday at 4 p.m. against rival Idaho State in Pocatello.
Roy Burton covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner. Follow @RoyBurton on Twitter, read more about the Wildcats at blogs.standard.net/wsu-sports-blog or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.