Coaches Caravan

Pavlik, O’Brien and Gadowsky

I attended the Penn State Coaches Caravan at Penn State Altoona for breakfast this morning.  The event seemed well-attended with only a few seats empty here and there.  We did not see nearly the 1,000+ that reportedly showed up in Scranton.

Three coaches were present:  O’Brien (football), Pavlik (men’s Volleyball) and Gadowsky (men’s hockey.)

Pavlik spoke first, likening himself to a leek among the more popular vegetables (the other two coaches.)  But with his record as the volleyball coach, Gadowsky said that would make him a garnish.  O’Brien didn’t bother to indicate what vegetable or food group he represented.

Now, if we can believe that he really means everything that he says–and there’s no reason to doubt that–then I think we have a pretty special guy coming in.  Why would he lie?  How many coaches have told their team they are not leaving, while they have tickets in their back pocket to head elsewhere?  I don’t get that sense from O’Brien.  He did indicate he would not coach until he was in his eighties, and he never guaranteed all those coaching years would be at Penn State.  But he sounds like a man who has found his dream job.

When asked why he took the Penn State job, his response was basically, are you serious?  This is the best job in college football.  The facilities are second to none.  He praised Joe Paterno for what he had built and confirmed a commitment to success with honor.  He is building his football program on 4 basic cornerstones or pillars:  academics, football, integrity and respect.  He admitted he won’t be able to beat Ohio State with a 105 Valedictorians, but he is looking for student athletes that will be willing to work in the classroom, as well as excel on the football field.

In short, O’Brien respects the past and the ideals that set Penn State football apart from many other programs, and to some degree seems humbled and privileged to be where he is right now.  He sounds excited about the prospect of leading this team onto the field this fall.  His enthusiasm is infectious and his humor is reminiscent of Paterno.

When talking about Happy Valley, he noted that his team will be able to play in any weather.  He said the first day of practice was marked by 55 mph winds and the passing game was so bad that his wife questioned him after the scrimmage . . . “what was that?” she asked.  The next day it rained.  The following it spritzed snow.

He mentioned that the new NCAA “play-off” in the BCS might allow for a home game for the higher ranked team, prompting him to ask the crowd how they would like a game in Beaver Stadium in December.  The very fact that this man is thinking Penn State will be a participant in that scenario is refreshing alone.  Never once were fans asked to lower our expectations, even though it is certainly reasonable to expect the transition to a new coach and scheme to take 2-4 years, particularly since most of these players are not players he recruited.

All in all, I found the event positive and I am now more than ever looking forward to the opening game against Ohio on September 1st.

Respect the past.  Play hard in the present.  Plan for the future.

We are . . . Penn State!

O’Brien mingles with the crowd at Penn State – Altoona.

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Filed under Bill O'Brien, fans, football, Guy Gadowsky, Hockey, Mark Pavlik, Penn State, volleyball

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