Narduzzi named Pitt’s head man
By: Ryan Bertonaschi
Folks throughout Western Pennsylvania were quick to dub Pat Narduzzi as the greatest thing since sliced bread – err, the “script Pitt” logo – that is, after clips of Narduzzi’s introductory press conference as Pitt’s head football coach on Friday left many of them mesmerized by his jaunty and spirited demeanor.
There’s no doubt that Narduzzi was a hit. He conquered the presser before about 100 media members and many fans watching at home and listening in their cars. The 55-year-old former defensive coordinator at Michigan State spoke with authority. He told many stories about his father, the late Bill Narduzzi, who coached Pat at Youngstown State, and he made note that he has retained many family tendencies of his mother, Angie.
He said repeatedly that Angie and Bill instilled in him a sense of “loyalty” at a young age, and he claims to have never given up that attribute.
Today is day two of Narduzzi’s venture as new head coach at Pitt, where the surrounding community has gotten on its knees and begged for “loyalty” within the position for a half-decade but hasn’t gotten it.
Pitt Executive Vice Chancellor Jerry Cochran, who headed the search committee for the Panthers coach, said he “didn’t have to work hard on” the decision to hire one, meaning that Narduzzi sold himself to Cochran and company as well as he did with the media and fans on Friday.
And for the sake of those Pitt fans, Cochran’s statement better mean that he received a pledge from Narduzzi to stay at Pitt for a considerable chunk of time.
According to Narduzzi, “loyalty” was likely one of the reasons why Cochran and his team hired him as Pitt’s 37th head coach.
“I would maybe think one of the reasons is that I’m a loyal guy,” Narduzzi said as he clutched the podium at Pitt’s South Side practice complex.” I’ve been with Mark Dantonio for 11 years, [I have] had opportunities to leave and I haven’t. I’ve been looking for the perfect place.”
“The morning I got a call [inquiring about the vacant Pitt job], I walked into the office [belonging to Dantonio] with a big, old smile on my face, because I knew this was the place,” Narduzzi continued. “This was a place that I was going to go after the job and I wanted the job.”
Narduzzi had recently turned down job offerings from the likes of Connecticut and Colorado State.
A graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School and native of Youngstown, Oh., which lay 70 miles (just over an hour) from the Cathedral of Learning, he still has Ohio roots, and those played a factor into his decision, too.
“Moving to the University of Pittsburgh moves me closer to my family,” Narduzzi said. He has family in Youngstown, including Angie, and his wife and children frequent the city of 65,000 every summer.
“This is my home,” he continued, pointing at the floor of Pitt’s facility with a massive finger. “Is there anything closer to Youngstown that’s a place where you can win a national championship? Pittsburgh is my home.”
Narduzzi added that he fell in love with the university officials that conversely fell in love with him as they escorted him through many of Pitt’s facilities and around campus.
“The family atmosphere at Pitt was exactly what I was looking for,” he said. “To go where you want to go as a football coach and to go where you want to go as a university and athletic department, it takes everybody going together to get there. You can’t have someone going to the right and someone going to the left. We all have to work in unison. That’s what I came out of that meeting [with Pitt’s officials last week] going, ‘These guys are all going in the right direction…’ And that’s what I want to be a part of.”
There had been an obvious disconnect between Pitt’s recent head football coaches and the school’s former athletic director, Steve Pederson. Pederson was fired after former Pitt coach Paul Chryst bolted for Wisconsin earlier in December, and the university is still without Pederson’s replacement.
Narduzzi was openly impressed by the people who handled his hiring. Dr. Randy Juhl, Pitt’s acting athletic director who played a part in the hiring and made a handful of eye-opening comments Friday at the press event, is perhaps the polar opposite of Pederson, who I’ve always seen as a systematic robot whose middle name may as well have been “corporate.”
Pitt’s next athletic director must uphold the mini-legacy that has been created by Juhl, Cochran, Executive Associate Athletics Director Donna Sanft and the rest of the gang in order to pave way for coaching sustainability.
And here’s why:
“I wouldn’t call it a destination job,” Narduzzi said. “But this is a place where I want to be for a long time if they let me.”
…So that he or she doesn’t run this presumed jewel out of town.