There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, Pat Narduzzi is officially the next Pitt football coach. Here's a link to my story from today's Post-Gazette, and here's my colleague Ron Cook on Narduzzi's first impressions. Here are a few extra notes that didn't make it into the paper...
- A big theme in Narduzzi's introduction was his background in Youngstown, Ohio, and how taking this job was a sort of homecoming for him. He is the son of a coach, and has roots in the Midwest. He also spent plenty of time thanking his former coaches and colleagues, from his father, who coached at Youngstown State from 1975-85 to Mark Dantonio, who he worked with for the last 11 years at Michigan State and Cincinnati.
"Throughout my coaching career, we've always talked about never forgetting where you came from, never forgetting what your story is," Narduzzi said. "Everybody's got a story here, where you came from, what you did to get where you are. Everybody's got that story and you never forget where you came from, and I'll never forget where I came from."
- He said one of the biggest things he hopes to instill in the Pitt team is a good football knowledge.
"We've got to be smart," he said. "We're going to win it with knowledge, and we're going to play fast and physical. If you don't have knowledge, it's hard to play fast and probably the best compliment we've gotten at Michigan State as far as defense goes is, 'You guys play fast.'"
That's a theme that's fairly common among coaches but, given the success Narduzzi's defenses had at Michigan State, it appears to be true with him.
- As far as recruiting goes, Narduzzi said he has had limited interactions with some of Pitt's recruits over social media in the days leading up to the announcement, but will start in earnest today. The trouble is it's a dead period, so he's limited to phone calls.
"It's got to be a time when I've got time to talk, but I'm certainly going to reach out to the whole class and keep them together," he said. "That's important."
One thing Narduzzi won't do, however, is reach out to Michigan State commits and try and get them to flip. He said he has too much respect for Dantonio and the Spartan program to do that. It will, though, be interesting to see how he approaches finalizing this class at Pitt, though. He has recruited Western Pennsylvania and Ohio in the past, so he already has ties to these areas from a recruiting perspective.
"I think there's great football players here," he said. "I know our roster is soaked with them right now. To win here, we're going to have to continue to soak our roster with great players from the state of Pennsylvania."
- Narduzzi will coach Michigan State's defense in the Cotton Bowl before fully taking the reins at Pitt, which is pretty much standard procedure for coordinators taking bigger jobs. He called it "unfinished business," and even went so far as to say he's not sure he would have taken the job if he wasn't able to finish out his season with the Spartans (which I think was a bit of hyperbole, but still).
"The season's not over, and it's not over for Pitt and that's why I want to be conscientious of coach Rudolph and what he's doing with his kids tonight," Narduzzi said. "They've got special teams meeting after a team meeting. I don't want to do anything to interrupt that, just like I wouldn't want anyone to interrupt our Cotton Bowl. We've got business to take care of."
- Narduzzi said he wasn't able to watch much of Pitt this season. He said he caught them once on a Thursday night while he was making a game plan (which, by simple deduction, means he was watching the Virginia Tech game).
"I saw you guys play at one point, saw the toughness," he said. "Can't say I've watched a ton of football yet, but we've got time to get into that. I know we've got a young football team. I think we've got some young tailback that plays a little defense that's a pretty darn good football player. I think we've got someone who can throw the ball, too. I'm sure we've got plenty of tools and weapons to compete in the ACC."
One of the biggest things to look for will be how Narduzzi approaches the offense, since his background is exclusively on the defensive side of the ball. He did say he'll keep a pro-style offense, which makes sense given that's what Pitt's roster is constructed for and it's also what Dantonio runs at Michigan State.
"We're going to run the ball now," he said. "It's called time of possession. When that clock is going tick-tock, tick-tock, it makes your defense better."
- Finally, I think the biggest takeaway as far as Narduzzi's approach to the job is his repeated desire to "be the CEO of the program," as he put it. Obviously, his background is defense and his first task will be to build up Pitt's, but I think ultimately he'd like to take a step back and be more hands-off, which is a quality a lot of the best coaches have. Sure, there are successful coaches like Chip Kelly, Art Briles, Rich Rodriguez, etc. who have a calling card on one side of the ball, but the best of the best (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, etc.) are truly managers of a program. Narduzzi obviously has a long way to go to get to that level, and there are plenty of coaches who have failed trying to get there, but I think his approach to the job is the right one. He didn't speak too much Friday about how great Pitt's defense was going to be, even though that's his background. He's focused on elevating an entire program.