It all happened quickly.
After one of the worst football seasons in Boston College history, new athletic director Brad Bates was looking for a head coach to stop the bleeding. It took him about a week to interview Temple coach Steve Addazio, but only a matter of moments to make up his mind to hire him.
It was a job Addazio had his heart set on for a while.
In 2009, when he was the offensive coordinator at Florida, Addazio was among the candidates on then-BC AD Gene DeFilippo’s list to replace Jeff Jagodzinski. But Addazio had blown out his knee during the celebration after Florida’s BCS championship, was still recovering from surgery, and couldn’t interview.
“We cried for him,” said former Gators offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey. “It was a sad moment.”
It was the kind of opportunity that rarely pops up twice.
“For him to build it all the way back up was awesome,” Pouncey said. “It was a dream come true.”
Temple AD Bill Bradshaw didn’t know BC was Addazio’s dream job until after he had taken it. The process moved so fast that Bradshaw barely could react to it. He knew Addazio was in Chestnut Hill interviewing for the Eagles job, but he was essentially powerless to convince him to stay. They only talked when Addazio called to say he was accepting the position.
The disappointment at Temple was obvious. Some players vented via Twitter. Some recruits were left wondering what to do. The program was left looking for another coach. Addazio met with the team for five minutes before flying to Boston. He recently had told his players, after a 4-7 season, that he was “in it for the long haul.” All Bradshaw could think was that Addazio’s time at Temple was short.
“Too short,” he said.
But for Addazio, the opportunity felt too right. The Connecticut native with a house on Cape Cod and recruiting ties in the Northeast was heading back home.
“I was thrilled to death to come here and I explained that to people back at Temple, that this is a very unique opportunity for me, one that I was going to take,” Addazio said. “It’s hard. To go in there and tell people that have been good to you and tell your team, it’s a hard thing to do.”
But he had to.
Addazio’s coaching career has been long and winding, from Western Connecticut to Cheshire to Syracuse to Notre Dame to Indiana to Florida, to Temple as a head coach for the first time, and now Boston College, where he’ll try to restore a program that’s been on a four-year downturn. But the rewards of the journey, Addazio said, are strong relationships and paid dues.
“I’m one of those guys that came from the ground up,” he said. “I really feel like I’ve learned this business the right way. A lot of guys in the business today, they kind of wake up on third base. I didn’t. I earned it. It took a while, I built my career, but I feel like those stops along the way have been great experiences for me, and they pay back to me all the time.”
There was a point, early in Addazio’s career, when all he had was a gas card, a calling card, a running list of recruits, and a Chevy Chevette.
He was an assistant coach at Western Connecticut State and his assignment was to recruit in Western Massachusetts, so he would wake up at 5:30 in the morning just to beat the traffic on the Pike. He’d hit eight to 10 schools. There wasn’t enough money for a hotel room, so he was back on the road the same night for a drive to Danbury, Conn., that was two hours, if he was lucky.
“It was a pain in the rear end,” he said. “But those are the days when I started meeting some of those coaches up here and establishing relationships.”
And that’s when he learned something he still clings to today.
“I’ve got long relationships with these coaches, friendship, I’m not just popping in to recruit a guy,” he said. “I love relationships, so I work at keeping relationships good and strong. Some guys don’t pick up the phone, I always pick up the phone.”
Addazio has done his best never to sever a tie. He recruited Mike and Maurkice Pouncey at Florida, and even though they’ve moved on to the NFL, they still talk to Addazio weekly.
“We love him as much as anything on this earth,” said Maurkice, who was drafted by the Steelers with the 18th overall pick in 2010. “He’s a tough guy, an Italian guy, he coached our [rears] off, and for me and Mike he played a father role.”
Addazio has a coaching style — and volume level — that players have to adjust to, but former Syracuse offensive lineman Cory Bowen said players benefit from his “coach hard, love hard” philosophy. Bowen had five knee surgeries in his four seasons with the Orange, and Addazio was at the hospital after each one.Continued...