Don Brown coaches alongside Jim Harbaugh

Former Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, left with head coach Jim Harbaugh, has started to fill out his staff as the new head coach at UMass.

The holiday week hasn’t kept Don Brown from building his coaching staff at the University of Massachusetts.

Brown, who was hired back in November to take over for Walt Bell as head coach, has been putting together his staff, and several of the latest names come to Amherst with some familiarity with Brown.

The two coordinators, offensive coordinator Steve Casula and defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski, worked with Brown at Michigan and at UMass, respectively.

New running backs coach Damian Mincey, like Dudzinski, worked for Brown in the new coach’s previous tenure in Amherst.

The fourth new coach announced this week is outside linebackers coach Mike McCray.

Dudzinski’s UMass bona fides are solid. He came to UMass in 1998 as former coach Mark Whipple’s defensive line coach. Dudzinski had worked for Whipple at Brown before the move to Amherst. Dudzinski also coached linebackers and defensive backs at UMass before heading to Northeastern with Brown as that school’s linebackers coach and defensive coordinator.

Dudzinski returned to Amherst when Brown was hired in 2004 and stayed until he joined Brown at Maryland in 2011. Dudzinski worked at UAlbany from 2016-19, and then became a defensive analyst under Brown at Michigan in 2020. He followed Brown to Arizona, where he coached linebackers.

“Back when I was at UMass during the 2000’s, Keith Dudzinski was our defensive coordinator, and I could not be more excited to welcome Keith and his wife Kathy back to UMass,” Brown said in a statement. “Keith is a New England native who understands what makes this place so special.”

Former UAlbany assistant Damian Mincey is coming back to UMass as the team’s running backs coach. Mincey spent the previous four seasons as the running backs coach for the Great Danes. Mincey worked for Brown at UMass as an assistant linebackers, linebackers and tight ends coach. The University of New Haven graduate also spent the 2013 season as the defensive coordinator for East Coast Prep in Great Barrington.

“I am super excited to be back in Amherst with Coach Brown,” Mincey said in a statement on Twitter. “This was my first coaching job back in 2006, and UMass holds a special place in my heart.”

The offensive coordinator holds no ties to UMass, but he did work as an offensive analyst at Michigan when Brown was Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator.

“One of the most creative offensive minds in football! Not just a great coach but a even better person! I’m excited to watch him back running the show! Thank you for all of your sacrifice & dedication to make Michigan football better!” Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis wrote on Twitter.

Prior to his time at Michigan, Casula was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Division II Ferris State. He was the offensive coordinator in 2018, when Ferris State lost in the Division II championship game to Valdosta State 49-47. That year, Ferris averaged 491 total yards on offense and 39 points per game.

Brown and UMass announced on Dec. 23, that Ryan Partridge was joining the staff as wide receivers coach. Partridge comes to UMass from Arizona, where he was the team’s direcor of recruiting and scouting. Partridge, whose cousin Crhis is the offensive coordinator at Mississippi, helped the Wildcats to the No. 2 class in the Pac-12 and the No. 23 class in the nation.

“He played wide receiver in college [at Northern Arizona] and coached linebackers at the collegiate level. He has also been a very successful head coach at the high school level,” Brown said in a Tweet. “He has a habit of leaving programs better than he found them.”

Partricge was the MaxPreps.com California High School Coach of the Year in 2018. He was 40-11 in four years as the head coach at Liberty High School in Brentwood, Calif.

He worked with Casula at Ferris State as the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator.

The final new hire, for now, is new outside linebackers coach Mike McCray. McCray, a former Michigan linebacker, comes to Amherst after spending the 2021 season as a defensive graduate assistant at Notre Dame.

There are still slots to be filled because, with the exception of offensive line coach Alex Miller — who served as interim head coach after Bell’s firing, Brown elected to not retain any other member of Bell’s old staff.

One former UMass assistant, running backs coach Donte Pimpleton, is reportedly going to be getting the same job at Florida Atlantic.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.