UConn’s Diaco has a long history with newest assistant

STORRS, Conn. (AP) UConn head coach Bob Diaco turned the tables on Frank Verducci this month when he recruited the longtime NFL assistant to become the Huskies offensive coordinator.

Diaco was a star linebacker at Cedar Grove High School in New Jersey in 1991 when he first met Verducci, who was on a recruiting trip as an assistant coach at Iowa.

”We’re walking through the hall and we stopped at his locker, I’ll never forget it,” Verducci said Wednesday during his first meeting with reporters in Connecticut. ”He opened his locker and he had a picture of my dad in his locker.”

Diaco and his brothers had all played for Tony Verducci, a well-known high school coach, at nearby Seton Hall Prep. Bob Diaco decided to transfer to Cedar Grove when the elder Verducci died following his freshman season.

Diaco went on to star at Iowa and become a graduate assistant there with Frank Verducci’s help.

Verducci is the latest addition to a staff comprised almost entirely of friends who have coached with Diaco in the past.

”I want our players communicated and taught and cared for in a particular way,” Diaco said. ”The people that are in my life, that I love, that I have relationships with, they typically see the world in a similar way that I do.”

But Diaco emphasized that it is Verducci’s resume, not his personal relationship, that got him the job at UConn.

Verducci has coached for 31 years, with stops in the NFL at Cincinnati, Dallas, Buffalo and Cleveland. He has also coached at more than a half dozen colleges, including Northwestern, Maryland, Colorado State, Florida, and Notre Dame.

He is being asked to help revive a UConn offense that averaged just 15 1/2 points and 277 yards a game while going 2-10 during Diaco’s first year as a head coach.

He comes from a well-known sports family. His father and five uncles were high school coaches. Baseball writer Tom Verducci is his brother. Former MLB player and manager Gil Hodges is an uncle.

He said he learned from each of them, and has tried to adopt some of Hodges’ professorial temperament.

”You learned that you didn’t have to raise your voice to get your point across,” he said. ”If you knew what you were talking about and could be succinct in doing it, you could reach people.”

Verducci said he has a flexible coaching philosophy and plans to sculpt the Huskies offense around its talent, ”putting round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes.”

UConn tight ends coach Don Patterson, who coached with Verducci at Iowa, said he expects it will be a good fit.

”He understands how to motivate young men and he understands how to be part of a team of coaches,” he said.