If you could win a championship at an introductory press conference, Bob Diaco would be parading down Jim Calhoun Way right now, holding a crystal ball aloft while confetti fell from the sky and fans and students fell over themselves trying to touch the float.
Diaco couldn’t have been much more impressive in his first appearance as a Husky, commanding the room with a confidence and positivity that makes you understand why Notre Dame defensive lineman Mike Golic Jr. tweeted that UConn was going to get the best pregame speeches in the country.
And anyone who was at ND knows UCONN is about to have the best pregame speeches in the country. #BIA
— Mike Golic Jr (@MGolicJR57) December 12, 2013
He was energetic and personable, introducing himself to every press member that asked a question and smiling and laughing at every turn. He talked about winning championships, molding young men, and the passion he has for football, comparing walking out onto the field with Pavlov’s dogs hearing the bell ring.
“I’m just glad for me and my family, because we are where we want to be. We are at UConn,” he said. “It’s exactly the right fit for us, and I’m exactly the right fit for this team, and they’re exactly the right fit for me.”
He even sounded like a pastor at times.
“We’re going to grow together, and we’re going to create some championships here.”
The 40-year old former Notre Dame defensive coordinator signed a 5-year, $7.5 million deal with the Huskies early Thursday morning.
He will be a stern departure from Paul Pasqualoni, who as good a football man as he might have been, didn’t bring this kind of energy to the locker room.
“I met with the team, and I’m standing there and looking at their faces, and they’re looking at me like, ‘Who’s this guy?'” Diaco said.
“But after about five minutes, their faces kind of changed. And after about 10 minutes, they changed again. And by the time we were done, you’re looking at a team,” he said.
Diaco lauded the passion of UConn fans, and almost in Terrell Owens fashion, warned them to get their wallets ready.
“Tickets go on sale soon,” he said with a smile. “Get the ticket while you can because soon you won’t be able to get it.”
He wasn’t fazed by the challenge of recruiting in the northeast, either. “I don’t think it’s fair to call it a challenge. This is a recruiting hotbed. People come from all over the place to pluck players,” he said.
“This school has great facilities,” Diaco said. “You’re not going to go anywhere in the country and find it nicer.”
Diaco also made the American Athletic Conference sound exciting, raving about East Carolina, Cincinnati and Navy. That may have been the only part of the press conference where he sounded full of it–even when he talked about the offense.
“The offense needs to dominate the line of scrimmage,” he said. “Mash the opponent back. We need to overwhelm the opponent at the point of attack. Do all of the things that I hated.”
“We need tempo changes, move-the-pocket passing, every screen imaginable. We need to chuck it down the field a bunch.”
“A bunch,” he added, just to make it clear.
“It’s exciting. I can’t wait to get with these guys,” Diaco said. “I think they’ve already shown their grit.”
Diaco said that he hasn’t made any decisions on who will be on his staff, though he has a collection of candidates he’s thought about. He praised interim coach T.J. Weist for the job he did with the program.
“T.J. did a remarkable job with this team,” he said. “They found a new level of toughness, mental toughness. They created winning habits.”
More about the new head Husky:
Diaco spent the last three seasons with Notre Dame, taking over as defensive coordinator in 2010. His revamped defense helped lead the Fighting Irish to the BCS National Championship Game in January.
Diaco won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach in 2012. The Irish ranked second nationally in scoring defense that year, giving up under 12 points per game.
He grew up in Cedar Grove, N.J., and played linebacker under legendary coach Hayden Frye at Iowa as a collegian.