He's been on many short lists for jobs around the country, interviewing for marquee gigs more than once. And it's long been believed that he covets the chance to replace his former coach, Joe Paterno, at Penn State one day.
So when the questions came Monday - "Why here?" "Why now?" - Golden didn't hesitate before answering.
"Are you kidding me?"
That's how Golden got a roomful of applause, his first victory as coach of the Miami Hurricanes.
A whirlwind week that started in a New York hotel ended Monday night before a packed news conference in Miami, where Golden donned a new tie and lapel pin - both with the "U" logo - and vowed to restore the Hurricanes' program to greatness. He and his wife arrived in mid-afternoon, chatted with university president Donna Shalala, then Golden met his team for the first time.
"The most recognizable brand in college football," Golden said. "Again, I go back to the former players that are here, the five national championships, 20 national award winners, countless All-Americans, incredible tradition. It's a dream job. It's a tremendous opportunity for my family and I to build championships here."
Golden said those words barely 24 hours after striking a five-year deal with the Hurricanes, who considered a slew of candidates before athletic director Kirby Hocutt met with the coach who pulled off an almost-unthinkable turnaround at Temple, taking the Owls to a bowl game for the first time in three decades last season and getting the team to upgrade its academic and civic profiles as well.
Golden said the two words Miami fans love most - "national championship" - more than once in his first day on the job. Hocutt hired Golden with the charge of making Miami relevant again nationally, but stressed that this effort, while perhaps not as dire as what Golden faced at Temple, will take some time.
"Judge this hire next fall. Judge this hire after two football seasons are completed," Hocutt said. "I'm confident that our fan base, once they meet Al Golden and they get to know him and see his passion and what he's committed to and what he stands for, they're going to be very pleased. It was critically important for this program to find the right fit. And we found the right fit at the right time."
Golden takes over for Randy Shannon, who was fired after a 7-5 regular season - the first step backward the Hurricanes took in his four seasons. Shannon went 28-22 at Miami, and Hocutt made what he said was a difficult decision to change coaches based on the body of work, not one loss in particular.
Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland remains as the interim head coach, and will continue in that role through Miami's Dec. 31 appearance in the Sun Bowl against Notre Dame. Golden will spend much of this week recruiting, and said he's anxious to see what Miami's players look like on the practice field.
Other than that, he'll stay away from the process of closing the 2010 season, instead working ahead for 2011.
Temple went 3-31 in the three seasons before Golden arrived; the Owls were 1-11 in his first season there, then won 26 games over the past four years.
The 41-year-old Golden played at Penn State under Paterno, then began his coaching career at Red Bank Catholic High in New Jersey.
He knows the Atlantic Coast Conference, having spent time as an assistant at both Virginia and Boston College.
He said telling his Temple players that he was leaving was tough Sunday night, and his Monday chat with his new group of Hurricanes wasn't exactly easy, either.
A few showed up for Golden's news conference; after the meeting many left for some already-scheduled finals.
"When he first walked in he cracked a couple jokes, a couple icebreakers," quarterback Stephen Morris said. "And then we just started talking business. We understand his morals. We understand what he's about and I think that's very important for a first meeting."
Golden was Hocutt's top choice from the time they first spoke in New York, and had the Miami athletic director so enthralled that he jumped on a plane to meet with him again for several hours shortly afterward in Philadelphia.