Sacrifice shaped Golesh’s drive as head football coach

Bulls coach Alex Golesh sat down with assistant sports editor Hannah Halili and spoke about his life journey that prepared him to become USF’s head football coach. ORACLE PHOTO/HANNAH HALILI

USF coach Alex Golesh has brought a refreshing energy to the Bulls, one the team has really enjoyed. But what people don’t know is that “hype” stems from a place much larger than football – it comes from a lifetime of sacrifice. 

Golesh’s journey to becoming South Florida’s sixth head coach started when he was 7 years old, as he and his family moved from Russia across the world to Brooklyn.

Despite moving to a new country at a young age, he said the hardest part was watching his parents leave everything they’d ever known to give him and his brother Eugeune a better life. 

His parents worked tirelessly and taught Golesh how to work hard from the start. He and his brother were pushed to cook, clean and take care of things on their own.

“We were home a lot by ourselves, you had to try to figure it out,” Golesh said. “But, I think it taught me that you can outwork people and I still think to this day that you can still outwork people. I also think that it doesn’t really matter where you start. As long as you work, great things can happen.”

Looking back, Golesh said seeing his parents work a lot taught him what selflessness is and the importance of putting effort into every opportunity that he gets. That grind that was instilled in Golesh as a child, transpired into his mindset of doing every job to the best of his ability. By doing that, he was confident that everything would fall into place. 

Perseverance allowed him to grasp different opportunities within coaching football. Being a coach at separate levels also signified moving to schools across the country. As he began his career, he again found himself having to pack up everything and leave to a new place multiple times. 

Prior to taking the reins at USF, Golesh worked at nine different universities and held 12 positions across the span of 19 years. He was the offensive coordinator/tight ends coach at the University of Tennessee from 2021-22. He served as the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Iowa State from 2016-19. Golesh also held a role of position coach and recruiting coordinator for Illinois from 2012-15. 

His biggest supporter throughout his many stops has been his wife, Alexis Golesh. 

Golesh met Alexis when he was a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State in 2008. When she was inclined to move to Toledo with him nine months later, he said he realized he wanted to propose. 

“The southern girl wants to go live on Lake Erie and survive the winters? That was when I knew like man, you better put a ring on it and not screw this one up,” Golesh said. 

Alexis said she never saw herself moving from her home state of Arkansas. When Golesh got his first full time job in Ohio and she decided to go with him, she said it was hard. However, she couldn’t help but feel supported by him and knew he would take care of her. 

Every move since then has been a family decision. Alexis said Golesh always made sure she was comfortable with relocating. 

“That job was his first full time job,” Alexis said. “I think I cried everyday for the first few months and then you just kind of have to step out of your comfort zone. Football is unique because you kind of already have an instant community with the staff. Once you get to know the team and the players, it’s just like a family.” 

Golesh said Alexis has navigated a handful of moves and she makes it easy for him to perform at a high level even with the many hours it demands. On top of being a dietician, Golesh said she is a mother figure for the players on the team. 

“She’s been a mom to just about every single of the guys that I’ve ever coached,” Golesh said. “They look at her as somebody that’s always been there and can certainly cook, but provide a support system for the guys that are away from home and away from their families.” 

Putting herself in the shoes of the parents who sent their kids across the country to play football pushes Alexis to be the person student athletes can rely on when they are far away from home. 

After having kids of her own, Alexis said she realized college-aged athletes still need guidance. She makes sure her doors are always open to listen and comfort players, no matter the circumstances. 

“These guys are 19 or 18 years old and they’re still making big decisions and you just want to be there for them,” Alexis said. “Especially during the recruiting process, you make all these promises to these parents and you have to show up for them and make sure you honor those promises.”

Photographs of Golesh’s family decorate his office which sits inside the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center. Him and Alexis have two kids, Corbin and Barrett Golesh. 

Corbin will start seventh grade this upcoming school year in Tampa and taking after her mother, Golesh also calls her a little rockstar. Whilst navigating the chaos of middle school, she is a cheerleader and a golfer.

Barrett will begin third grade and has his toes dipped in multiple different sports. Currently he is involved in a travel baseball team playing catcher and plays quarterback in football. 

Outside of celebrating a high-scoring game, Golesh said his favorite memories aren’t necessarily the wins or losses he’s accumulated over the years. It is actually seeing his kids on the field after a game. 

“They live through those wins and losses,” Golesh said. “You come home and my little man is over the loss about 30 minutes after the game and all he wants to do is have dad there with him.”

Seeing Corbin and Barrett on the sidelines after the Bulls’ first game in September will feel a little bittersweet because it would symbolize the end to the longest time they have had to be apart. 

One of the biggest sacrifices the family had to make was when Golesh accepted the head coaching position for USF. For six months, the family has not lived under the same roof. 

Alexis said while Golesh stayed in Tampa, she stayed with Corbin and Barrett in Tennessee to finish the school year. 

“When he was given this opportunity we talked about it and we’re like, ‘You know, it’s gonna be hard.’ And he knew that for the kids sake that we were going to stay back in Knoxville until they finished the school year. And that’s a huge sacrifice,” Alexis said. 

The role of being a parent has become precedent in his character of being a football coach, especially after spending time away from his wife and kids. Golesh said he has matured and knows the time his staff spends working for USF, is time spent away from their families. 

There was a big transition for Golesh when was presented with the opportunity to become a head coach in December. He said that while he was going from managing only half the staff to the entirety of it, he wanted to focus on the purpose of the program he wanted to run, which is his family. 

“My ‘why’ is my family and that’s grown every year since,” Golesh said. “I do this because I want them to see what great leaders look like, what great fathers look like and great husbands look like. I strive every day to be a better husband and a better father to my family.”

Golesh’s patience and understanding aligns with how he treats his team. Alexis said seeing how she and her husband are impacting groups of young adults has made all the sacrifices worth it. 

Whether his athletes move onto playing in the NFL or entering the workforce after college, Golesh’s goal is to provide the resources and a group of people to lead them to a world beyond the field.

A long journey from Russia to Tampa has taught Golesh lessons at each point of his life. He is now in the position to take all of his knowledge and lead the next generation of student athletes. 

“I’ve never been in a hurry to get to this position. I’ve always tried to learn and grow in every single spot that I’ve been in. And it’s worked out to where the timing is right to be here,” Golesh said. 

“This is why I got into this profession. I’ve grown in every imaginable way and I feel like my job now is to pass that forward.”