Al Groh walked into his first formal meeting with the media at Georgia Tech Friday, wearing a particularly large ring on his right hand: a Super Bowl ring from his days with the New York Giants.
Was this standard accessorizing for him?
“No,” he said “Not very often. I usually just wear it for other people’s entertainment.”
Full disclosure here: Groh, while long regarded as a top defensive coach, never has had a reputation of being a charmer with the media. But I figure that working for Bill Parcells all of those years is bound to make anybody miserable.
But Groh seemed at ease Friday when discussing his new role as Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator, and even cracked a few jokes. When asked about the possible difficulty of going from being a head coach at Virginia to only an assistant again, he said: “You mean, am I going to have to let go of being responsible for players going to class, coming to the Monday press conference, talking to you all after games, meeting with the administrators, justifying our GPA – am I going to miss all of that? Yeah. I don’t know how I can do without it.”
Thank you. Try the veal.
It certainly has been stated enough times in this corner before: Paul Johnson made a terrific hire in Groh. For as much as Groh fizzled as a head coach at Virginia (8-16, including 5-11 in the ACC, in the last two seasons), he long has been regarded as one of the finest defensive coaches in football. But it’s clear there is some lingering bitterness remaining from his exit in Charlottesville and he’s greatly looking forward to the Tech-Virginia game next season. Here’s a few comments that stood out to me from the news conference:
♦ On still being bothered by how things ended at Virginia: “Sure. At one time we had some real good teams, and a lot of people contributed to that. So we were disappointed that our teams weren’t as good at the end. I think I understand the reasons why. But it doesn’t make any difference now . It is what it is. It’s all in the past and we’re looking forward.”
♦ On next year’s Virginia game: “It would be disingenuous to say that it’s not a different type of game. But if I was overly sentimental coaching against teams that I was formerly associated with, then I’d be coaching with tears in my eyes every week. … I hope there’s a lot of people [in Virginia] who feel we did a pretty good job. But one of the things inside of [coaches] is the awareness that you have to prove yourself every week and every year.”
♦ On his playing days at Virginia: “I didn’t have any talent. So all I could be was tough.”
♦ On adjusting back to being a head coach (seriously): “For the last 10 years, pretty much everything that we’ve done is what I wanted ti do. That’s not my role any more. I’m not the head coach, I’m not trying to be the head coiach, I don’t want to be the head coach. Paul Johnson has one of the best records percentage wise in the history of college coaching. He doesn’t need much help from me. It’s my role to adjust to how things are done around here. It’s my job to make the transition seamless, not have other people adjust to me.”
Our Doug Roberson will be posting a story later, and he’ll get more into the aspects of the Jackets’ switch to the 3-4 defense. I just wanted to give you a feel for Groh’s public debut. Early impressions: Positive.