Pitt hopes it has landed a coach who can bring stability to the program in former Michigan State coordinator Pat Narduzzi. He will coach his defense one final time Thursday in the Cotton Bowl against Baylor before concentrating his full efforts on the Panthers.
I had a chance to catch up with Narduzzi after he was introduced. Here is a little of what he had to say about why this is a destination job, and how he can bring consistency to the program.
Pitt has had a good deal of head coaching turnover the last five years. Why is this a destination job for you?
PN: I don't want to speak for Paul Chryst, but I bet he did intend to be here for another 10-15 years. He had an opportunity to go home. If any other Big Ten team offers, he'd probably still be here at Pitt. He's a heck of a guy, a heck of a coach but for me, this is my home so Coach Chryst went back to Madison and I'm not going back to Youngstown State so to me, the University of Pittsburgh is as close as I'm going to get to being home and being close to family.
You have been one of the top assistants in the country for several years. Was this one the right opportunity for you?
PN: The grass is not always greener on the other side. I was having a blast coaching Michigan State. I had a great job, I was able to support my family. There was no big hurry. I never had that ego where I go, 'I've got to be the head coach, I want to be the guy.' Never had that attitude. I've always just wanted to coach football and when the time was right and the place was right, I wanted to make a move. I've had some other opportunities this year but when this opportunity came up it was a no brainer. I had text messages and phone calls, emails that said this was your job, this is the perfect fit for you. It was like, yeah no question about it. Most people that knew where I recruit know our philosophy in what we do. It's one of those things where you thought it was a perfect fit. My children at times were like, oh Dad we're hearing this guy or this guy is going to get it. I never wavered.
How important is having that blue-collar mentality at Pitt?
PN: To me, the game of football is a tough game and it's played by tough people. That's how you win football games. I don't know if you're going to get a tougher group of guys than a bunch of guys from the Pennsylvania area.
Will your offensive philosophy be similar to what Pitt already does?
PN: To win football games, you have to be able to run the football and you have to be able to stop the run. We're going to be a running football team, whether we have a two-back set or a one-back set and defensively we have to be able to stop the run. We've been one of the top rushing defenses for years, and then when you talk about rushing the football, Michigan State has had Le'veon Bell and Jeremy Langford, Javon Ringer, so we've always been a pound-the-football team. We call it 'pound green pound' over there, and to me that goes right into when you talk about time of possession. If you can stop the run and you can run the ball and the clock is ticking, it makes everybody better.
Pitt has been unable to string together consistent wins over the last several seasons. How will you change that?
PN: That's a great question. The one thing we've done at Michigan State is be consistent. I think a lot of people expected us when we got beat by Ohio State, our chances of a national championship were over that we'd fall apart. When we first got to Michigan State, they used to call us the same old Spartans. They'd win a game, they'd beat Notre Dame and then they're going to turn around and get beat by Western Michigan. It took us three or four years where people didn't use that. So if you talk to anybody up there in East Lansing, that's the way it used to be and it's not that way anymore. It wasn't that way through our eight years there. To me it's character building, getting the right people in your program and teaching the kids how to deal with adversity or dealing with success. Those are character traits we have to teach these guys how to deal with and that's one of the single most important things Mark Dantonio did is really coach our kids up on those certain things. We've had some tough games but it seems after a tough loss we'd rebound with a great win. If you look through our records, we never collapsed and lost the kids. We don't lose our kids. We keep our kids with us.
What did you learn the most from Dantonio that you will take with you to Pitt?
PN: The most important thing I learned from Coach Dantonio is dealing with people. We talk about coaching the coaches and coaching the players and that's important, but really it's the development of the players off the field that's so important because an old Lee Tressel quote was: 'They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.' So because we care about our players, they start to buy into what you're doing. Our kids believed, and they continued to play for us.