Rapid Reaction: UConn hires ND defensive coordinator Diaco

It appears Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was Warde Manuel’s first choice. He had to settle for the back-up, but that might not end up being such a bad thing.

Some in-the-moment thoughts on UConn’s Wednesday night hire of Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco:

Bob Diaco (AP)

Bob Diaco (AP)

· I like two things here. I like that Diaco is a defensive guy and I like that he’s fiery. I won’t go as far to say both traits are essential, because there are certainly different ways to win, but both fit the UConn football mold.

Due to its location, and now because of its conference, I can’t imagine UConn spreading it out and winning shootouts. The Huskies haven’t recruited the athletes to do that  (the Stefon Diggs type) and I don’t think they will anytime soon. The formula from Randy Edsall’s success still holds true: run the ball, play defense, win the turnover battle. Boom.

Diaco coached the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense in 2012. Led by Manti Te’o, the Irish beat Michigan 13-6, BYU 17-14, Stanford 20-13, Purdue 20-17 and Michigan State 20-3  and USC 22-13 en route to a national championship game appearance. Notre Dame was also +8 in the turnover margin.

(My argument does lose a little steam, though, if you look at Diaco’s numbers in his first defensive coordinator gig. In 2009, Cincinnati was yielding just 12.8 points per game through eight contests, but gave up 39.8 in its final five. You remember that great 47-45 shootout against UConn, don’t you?)

· Anyway, the second part of this rant. Diaco’s fire. Word is he’s extremely intense, which is good for UConn because Paul Pasqualoni was the opposite of that. At some point in these past three years, UConn lost the chip on its shoulder, its edge, its attitude. And then it lost a whole bunch of football games. If Bob Diaco can restore some energy, that’ll go a long way in restoring UConn’s national relevance.

“He’s intense, man,” senior linebacker Prince Shembo told Blue and Gold Illustrated. “To have a good time with the kids, you gotta be a kid yourself. That’s how he is with us. He’s like a young adult; he runs around with us. That’s what makes him great. He’s interactive.”

“Coach Diaco’s a beast,” graduate student defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said in The Observer. “He’s fun to be around, he’s the same guy everyday on and off the field and that’s what I really appreciate out of him.”

“Sometimes I come out and I’m not as geeked up as I would like to be,” former Irish linebacker Darius Fleming told WNDU.com. “Just watching him and talking to him definitely gets you pumped up for practice.”

From that same WNDU.com article:

“I’m just a frustrated ex-player,” Diaco said in August, 2010 as he entered his first season as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator. “Like Pavlov’s dogs. I walk through the gate and I salivate.”


“You get habitized from when you are a kid—I can remember my dad when I was 8-years-old, pounding into my head the ideologies of defense,” Diaco said. “And making me repeat them to him—on demand.”

· UConn fans were melting down (on Twitter, at least) when news leaked that Pat Narduzzi had turned down the job. So yes, Diaco was Manuel’s second choice. It’s not the end of the world. It happens.

If we all got our first choice, we’d all be dating Mila Kunis. And who’s to say my life would be any more fulfilling with Mila Kunis than it will be with someone else?

Maybe that’s a bad example.

But, honestly, who knows if Narduzzi will become a better head coach than Diaco? A lot depends on the situation. For reasons I outlined earlier this week, I’d say Diaco is in a favorable situation.

· We’ll have to see what Diaco does with his staff, but T.J. Weist has earned a look at offensive coordinator. UConn’s offense was dramatically better in the final three games. Given the way Casey Cochran played and the way things clicked, it would be sensible to at least consider retaining Weist.

· Diaco is quickly moving up the coaching ladder. He was an All-Conference linebacker at Iowa in the mid-90s, and since has held seven jobs in 15 years. He was a position coach at Western Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Central Michigan before jumping to Virginia in 2006. After three seasons as linebacker coach, he took the Cincinnati defensive coordinator job and followed Brian Kelly to Notre Dame.

A few concerned fans tweeted at me: “How long will he be here?”

Bob Diaco (US Presswire)

Bob Diaco (US Presswire)

Who cares?

If he leaves, that means he’s won. And that’s a hell of a lot better than a static coach who loses.

· Diaco is a native of New Jersey, which bodes well for recruiting. That’s a key state for the Huskies.

· A Google Image search verified that Diaco has worn this hat (left) on more than one occasion. And that’s….that’s pretty cool.




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