Wednesday, December 11, 2013

High School Coaches Weigh in UConn Coaching Search

Earlier today I headed over to the Aqua Turf for the CIAC's pre-championship football luncheon to catch up with UConn commit Arkeel Newsome as he prepares for his final game at Ansonia. While I was there I cornered some of the eight coaches to get their take of what UConn should be looking for in its new football coach.

Of course since their lives revolve around coaching high school football in Connecticut, each one mentioned the importance of keeping the best in-state talent at UConn (that was also what helped Paul Pasqualoni land the UConn job back in 2011) but they weighed in with some other opinions as well.

I spoke to Ansonia's Tom Brockett since he is the head coach of a UConn commit, Brookfield's Rich Angarano since he coached former UConn linebacker Scott Lutrus in high school, Joe DellaVecchia of St. Joseph High because one of his former players is Temple's All-American Athletic Conference linebacker Tyler Matakevich, New Canaan's Lou Marinelli, who was one of the most vocal proponents of the hiring of Paul Pasqualoni at UConn and Fairfield Prep's Tom Shea simply because he came off as a quote machine when he spoke to the gathering of players, coaches, administrators and media members at the luncheon.

"Obviously you want to have somebody who has experience at that level of football and obviously he is going to bring in a great staff to get UConn back to where it was because no head coach does it himself, you have to have a great staff."

"There are so many different things, there are so many great coaches out there, I haven’t spent one second thinking about it, a lot of it is timing, a coach has to walk into the program at the right time and win. I am sure whoever they hire is going to be highly-qualified for that job and you are not going to get the job because you woke up the other morning and want to be the UConn football coach.

"I would like to see somebody in interested in-state kids, somebody who is going to take genuine interest and not just take token kids but use them as players. Somebody who is going to be creative in their offense, open it up a little bit and make it exciting throwing the football.

"I think it is real important for the state, I think we need a good person. It doesn’t have to be a name person, it just has to be somebody who has a lot of passion and can bring players into UConn and generate a lot of interest."

"I am the wrong person to ask, I am still upset about how they treated Paul (Pasqualoni) and George (DeLeone). I don’t care what they do. I am sorry to say that, it is a great institution but what they did to those two, two of the finest men that I know, I have nothing to say.

"I have a kid who is starting at Notre Dame (Conor Hanratty) who didn’t get a look from UConn so hopefully the guy who comes in will start anew and look closer at the kids in Connecticut. I think the last two games were won by a Connecticut quarterback and that is the way it should be. If the new coach would look closer at the state, I think he would be surprised at the talent."

"Clearly he has to be a great recruiter, a great motivator, he has to be able to hire great assistants and I hope that he is going to be dedicated and committed to the state of Connecticut. You can’t fill your roster with guys from Connecticut but there are some outstanding players here and over the years I don’t think UConn has gotten their fair share of them. If you are going to build a great state program you have to master your own state, I hope they will do that.

"It seems to me that it is really important that UConn get in a better conference, one that will enable them in football. They have been the best men’s basketball program in the last 15 years and they are undoubtedly the best women’s basketball program and I don’t know if they will be able to continue that success in their current conference so they need to improve their football in order to get into one of the conferences, the big ones, I think they would fit well into."

Naturally when I was talking to Angarano, I got his take on Lutrus emergence from talented high school player to dominant college player and now a pro player (although he is spending this season on injured reserve with the Indianapolis Colts).

"Scott Lutrus, is more than a great football player, he is an outstanding individual and what he has done with his career is outstanding. Right now he is Indianapolis, he is on injured reserve and hopefully when he gets cleared something will happen to him in Indianapolis or something.

"It is special for Scott. When Scott was there we went to three state championships and that says a lot about him as a player, he was special."

Considering the amount of effort Pasqualoni spent recruiting Connecticut players I always found it strange that he missed out on Matakevich. Actually UConn had two shots at him, one when he was coming out of St. Joe's and the other after he spent a season at Milford Academy.

With Matakevch, now a sophomore linebacker at Temple, earning first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors right around the time that the luncheon began, I thought I would get DellaVecchia's thoughts on what a force of nature Matakevich has become for Temple.

"We are really proud of Tyler, our staff follows him closely," DellaVecchia said. "His dad’s on my staff so I have known Tyler since he was born. He’s a great kid, he represents us in a great way. He is a positive role model for our kids and our kids look up to him so we couldn’t be any happier for him.

"I think it is what he has inside of him. He is a fierce competitor; he wants to win; he wants to impress; he wants to be better than everybody and he won’t quit until that happens. He has set goals and he plays hard every single day, that includes practice and he just wants to be the best."


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