Narduzzi still coaching stout Michigan St defense
It was Pat Narduzzi’s defense that paved the way for Michigan
State to reach the Rose Bowl – and because of that, nobody could be
certain if the chatty defensive coordinator would actually end up
coaching the game.
But for now, at least, Narduzzi remains with the fourth-ranked
Spartans. It seems inevitable that someday he’ll be a head coach,
but Narduzzi wasn’t about to leave for the first available
opportunity. Not after what he and coach Mark Dantonio have built
at Michigan State.
”You hate to break up a great party that we have going on right
now, and it better be a great opportunity,” Narduzzi said. ”It
felt like this is the place to stay.”
Narduzzi has been Dantonio’s defensive coordinator for the last
10 seasons – three at Cincinnati and seven at Michigan State. The
Spartans have been consistently impressive defensively for the last
few years, but their 2013 group stands out, ranking No. 1 in the
country in total defense – a distinction that helped Narduzzi win
the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant.
”Obviously, Pat Narduzzi is the coordinator and does a
tremendous job,” Dantonio said. ”I think him staying here sends a
message that things are good here. Things are very positive here
and he’ll leave for the right position at the right time and not
before then, because I think he enjoys the aspect of being
Narduzzi withdrew from consideration for the vacancy at
Connecticut earlier this month, so the speculation about him
immediately leaving for a head coaching job has subsided somewhat.
The continuity of the defensive staff has been a big part of
Michigan State’s success. Dantonio is a former defensive assistant
himself, and the working relationship between him and Narduzzi has
been a successful one since their days at Cincinnati.
”I think he lets his staff coach,” Narduzzi said. ”That’s why
it’s fun to coach here. He hasn’t changed as a person. He’s been
the same person he’s been. I think he’s become a better head
football coach every year.”
That’s not to say that the two are totally alike. In contrast to
the more stoic Dantonio, Narduzzi is quick to speak his mind, which
makes for some entertaining postgame sound bites.
A couple years ago, after a penalty-filled win over Michigan,
Narduzzi cracked that the Spartans tried to play ”60 minutes of
unnecessary roughness” against their rivals. He later said it was
a poor choice of words.
More powerful than any comments, of course, is Michigan State’s
performance on the field, and Narduzzi’s energy seems contagious.
When he came down from the booth to coach from the sideline during
the Big Ten title game, the Spartans finished off a cathartic
victory over Ohio State. Next up is Michigan State’s first Rose
Bowl appearance since 1988.
After winning the conference title, Narduzzi first had to weigh
the possibility of leaving for UConn. He said it was a close
”It would have been an hour from my mother-in-law,” he said.
”The key is probably my wife being a great coach’s wife, because
she could have said, `Hey Pat, let’s go.’ And I would have fallen
off the fence either way. But she was strong enough to say, `Hey,
what’s the best move for us as a family and for you coaching-wise?’
It wasn’t just about being close to home and all those
So Narduzzi is still at Michigan State – with another big
challenge ahead. The suspension of standout linebacker Max Bullough
will make the Spartans’ job significantly harder against
fifth-ranked Stanford, but this is a defense that has produced
sustained excellence all season – a defense built to withstand the
loss of an important player if need be.
Especially because another key component – the coordinator – is
still in charge.
”We’re going to have guys that are going to be highly sought
after, and it’s my intention to do the best we can to keep all of
our staff,” Dantonio said. ”Having Coach Narduzzi remain here is
a big aspect for us. Good friend, very loyal, and also an
outstanding coach – as I would say about every one of our