A solid foundation: New WT head coach Hughes values honesty, work ethic of his coaching staff

When Hunter Hughes accepted the head coaching job at West Texas A&M, he thought of three names to build his coaching staff around.


Those names were J.T. Haddan, Miles Kochaver and Ryan McDonough. That trio are now all an integral part of the WT coaching staff.

Haddan is the assistant head coach and defensive line coach. McDonough is the offensive coordinator and Kochaver is the defensive coordinator.

“Just like a team needs a core group, a coaching staff needs a core group,” Hughes said. “I got some guys in here I trust and will give me an honest opinion about things. They’re going to keep me on path if I get away from the edge I need be on.”

The first name that came to Hughes was Haddan.

Hughes helped recruit Haddan to Colorado State-Pueblo. Haddan entered the ThunderWolves program as a fullback and left as an All-Conference offensive lineman.

Hadden, 26, then coached two previous stints at CSUP, the latest as the defensive line coach under Hughes the past two seasons.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Haddan said. “But it’s all about who you’re working for. It was an easy decision for me. Hughes is a guy I trust and he trusts me. It’s a great relationship.

“He handles situations great, he holds young guys accountable, and I like how players respond to his demands. I respect that.”

Hughes shares the same respect for Haddan.

“His mom and dad are teachers,” Hughes said. “He’s not a yell or scream kind of coach. He just likes to go to work. He’s very trustworthy. If you ask him to do anything, he doesn’t ask why, he just does it.

“He’s turned into a great teacher. Because he was an offensive lineman, he can help those defensive lineman with what an offensive line is trying to do. Why they’re blocking the way they are, the scheme in pass protecting. He can help beat them.”

Hughes was a graduate assistant at the University of Colorado when Kochevar played at Colorado State from 2003-2005. The two then grew a friendship when Kochevar started coaching at Colorado Mesa from recruiting and coaching against one another.

“We fit together very well,” Kochevar said. “Hughes and I have the same mindset and it’s nice to work with a head coach that is defensive-minded. We’re trying to get these guys to learn the basics. We want them to play fast, hard and have the mentality that we want them to have.”

Kochevar built a reputation the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Humboldt State.

In those two years, the 34-year old’s defenses ranked first in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense.

“He’s a loyal guy,” Hughes said of Kochevar. “It was hard for him to tell his coach at Humboldt about this opportunity. That’s the kind of guy Miles is. But I think what makes him stand out is his ability to make in-game adjustments and his preparations for any situation.”

Hughes, Haddan and Kochevar know the adjustment in their first season is going to be a challenge for the defense against Lone Star Conference opponents that averaged 30 points a game between the 10 teams. However, Kochevar wants the Buffs’ defensive unit to embrace it.

“It will be a challenge,” Kochevar said. “But that’s what makes it fun is having is to adjust to these up tempo type offenses. We’re going to layout that foundation early and have the mindset to shut them down every time we take the field.”