“Spaz was one of the main reasons I came here,” he said. “I believed in the feelings he had for the people on the defense and just people in general.”
He saw the toll losing took on Spaziani.
“Spaz cares tremendously for this program,” Noel said. “I think he’d give his own life for this program and that’s what people don’t see on the outside. That’s what players see on the inside.”
There’s a den in the office Spaziani will leave behind lit dimly and decorated to entertain. The flat-screen television was rarely on. But his iPod played a lot of Springsteen, some Beatles, some Beach Boys.
He kept a few books scattered across a long coffee table. Terry Taylor’s “Stache” seemed to be there for laughs. Joe Torre’s “Yankee Years” and Tony Dungy’s “Quiet Strength” seemed to be there for wisdom. Laurence Gane’s “Introducing Nietzsche” seemed to be there for reasons somewhere in between.
Spaziani would pronounce it Nitschke, like the linebacker, and even though it sounded like he was joking, you were never quiet sure.
Every now and then, he’d delve into the existential, like when he thought of those reporters in Virginia and ambition versus complacency.
He started to tell a story about an uncle who used to say, “You’ve got to learn to be satisfied.” The thing about that philosophy, Spaziani said, was his uncle was a junk man.
“But the guy was the happiest guy I know,” he said. “He was the kind of guy that traveled to Germany with his wife, stayed 36 hours, and said, ‘Ok, I’ve seen it.’ ”
The parallels between that trip and Spaziani’s 61-year journey to becoming a head coach are vague, but they’re there.
“I know a lot of coaches that have moved around chasing their tail and regret it,” Spaziani said. “Is that wrong? You don’t know,” he said. “You’ve got to live it yourself.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org