Tim Kish has coached exactly 387 games in a college career that dates to 1978. He went to the Rose Bowl as a member of Northwestern's staff and endured an 0-11 season at Illinois.

The Arizona Wildcats' longtime assistant had seen it all - until Monday, when, for the first time in his career, Kish's boss was fired midseason.

Stranger still, Kish was installed as the UA's interim head coach even though the 57-year-old has never held a top job before.

Kish struggled Tuesday night to explain two days' worth of chaos, a sudden promotion and the near certainty that he won't be back next season. The UA's interim head coach will make his debut Oct. 20 against UCLA; the team is idle this week.

"I don't know what the feeling" of being a head coach is, he admitted.

Kish then thought a second.

"It's a good feeling," he said.

Kish's tenure, a six- or seven-game stretch, figures to be an era of good feelings. It's why athletic director Greg Byrne tabbed him Monday afternoon to take over for Mike Stoops, who was fired with his team mired in a 1-5 start and a 1-10 slump.

Byrne said Kish will create "a culture of calmness, which is probably a good thing for us."

Former UA head coach Jim Young, the man who gave Kish his first paying college job, described his former colleague as "a positive guy."

"I wouldn't use the word social, but he was able to fit in a lot of ways," he said.

The positive attitude stuck out when Young added Kish as Purdue's part-time secondary coach in 1979. The fact that Kish's father, Mike, was Young's basketball coach at Van Wert (Ohio) High School didn't hurt, either.

Kish followed Young to Army, where he spent eight seasons (1984-91) as the team's defensive ends and outside linebackers coach. Kish's wife, Angela, worked as a secretary in the football office.

"He was a very hard-working individual," Young said, "and he's been a very fine recruiter."

Kish came to Arizona for the start of the 2004 season; he is the only coach from Stoops' original staff still employed by the university.

Referring to the UA's past 24 hours as "a grieving process," Kish was clearly conflicted Tuesday. Stoops has yet to meet with his players, although Kish and Byrne will allow him to do so whenever he wants.

"We're all attached at the hip with Coach Stoops. I was with him for eight years," Kish said. "I was excited to be a part of the program, and I still am. We have to move forward. This is a part of the healing process, and we go on from here."

Kish accepted the interim job while on a recruiting trip in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon, then took a pair of flights home. He arrived in Tucson around midnight and reported to the office early Tuesday morning. Kish's first meeting with his team, held in the afternoon, focused on discipline - attending class, showing up on time and doing what you're told.

"There will be no compromise on the discipline," he said.

The Wildcats' evening practice was all about fun. The team scrimmaged for 30 minutes at the Jimenez Practice Facility. Though the 50-minute workout was closed to the public and media, whooping and cheering was clearly audible from outside the locked gates. The Wildcats made big plays on both side of the ball, Kish said.

"We even made a couple field goals, long-distance," he said. "It was good."

Kish talked to his team for about five minutes after practice but kept things basic. Players were off-limits to the media after Tuesday's practice. Safety Robert Golden tweeted later that he's "not answering no 520 area-code phone calls if I (don't) have you saved already. NO COMMENT."

Kish offered few details about what to expect in the coming weeks. He has given the UA's offensive coaches "complete autonomy" and will huddle with Byrne to discuss how to keep Arizona's 2012 recruits on board.

Although nothing has been finalized yet, Kish said he will pursue adding another assistant coach for the final six games.

Kish will be learning along the way; after all, it's new territory.

"The head coach always gets too much credit and too much blame," he said. "We're in the situation we're in right now because of us, and it'll take all of us to get out of it."

On StarNet: Follow the latest on the coaching situation on Ryan Finley's blog at azstarnet.com/finley


• Age: 57

• Hometown: Westerville, Ohio

• High school: Westerville HS (graduated 1972)

• College: Otterbein College (graduated 1976), Bowling Green (graduated 1978)

• Playing experience: Otterbein College, defensive back, 1973-76

• Personal: Kish and his wife, Angela have three children: daughters Megan and Emily and son Michael.

Coaching experience:

1976-77: Assistant coach, Mariemont High School, Cincinnati, Ohio

1978: Graduate assistant, Bowling Green

1979-81: Assistant secondary coach, Purdue

1982: Quarterbacks coach, Ball State

1983: Defensive line coach, Ball State

1984-91: Defensive ends/OLBs coach, Army

1992-96: Defensive ends/LBs coach, Northwestern

1997-2000: Defensive coordinator/LBs coach, Illinois

2001: Defensive coordinator/LBs coach, Ohio University

2002-03: Defensive coordinator/LBs coach, Indiana

2004-06: Linebackers coach, Arizona

2007-10: Linebackers coach/assistant head coach, Arizona

2010: Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, Arizona

2011: Defensive coordinator, Arizona

Up next

• What: UCLA at Arizona

• When: 6 p.m., Oct. 20


Kish by the numbers


Years in coaching


Years at Arizona


Head coaching jobs