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In bid for USF coaching job, Rich Bisaccia has endorsement of some big Bucs

Rich Bisaccia, celebrating with kicker Connor Barth, “is special … I love Rich,’’ former Buc Warren Sapp says.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Rich Bisaccia, celebrating with kicker Connor Barth, “is special … I love Rich,’’ former Buc Warren Sapp says.

You say you want a coach with passion. You say you want a tireless worker. You say you want a man with integrity.

"Rich Bisaccia,'' said Jon Gruden.

You say you want a coach with people skills. You say you want a coach who has spent some time around the NFL. You say you want a coach who can flash his Super Bowl ring in the face of a recruit.

"Rich Bisaccia,'' said Derrick Brooks.

You say you want a coach who can motivate the star player and the backup. You say you want a coach who is familiar with the program. You say you want a coach who makes players want to play for him.

"Rich Bisaccia,'' said Warren Sapp.

John Lynch, too, echoes Bisaccia's name. So do Mike Alstott and Dave Moore and Earnest Graham. So do a lot of players who have spent time around Bisaccia, the associate head coach and special teams coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

One by one, they line up behind him as if they were endorsing a favorite son, which in a way, they are. Say what you want about Bisaccia's chances of becoming the coach at USF, but it's fair to say his references can beat yours.

Tell me this: If you were in charge of hiring the next Bulls coach, wouldn't their support at least make you consider Bisaccia? Wouldn't it make you want to discuss the possibilities with him?

Admittedly, there are questions to answer. Bisaccia has never been a head coach, and he has been away from the college game for a long time. He hasn't coordinated an offense or a defense. He is neither famous nor flamboyant. There are those who wonder if Bisaccia is a fit as a head coach.

On the other hand, Bisaccia has impressed an impressive group of athletes. Doesn't that seem like a conversation starter to you?

"He's an excellent coach,'' said Gruden, Bisaccia's boss for eight seasons while with the Bucs. "He's as versatile a coach as I've been around. He could coach any position. I strongly considered making him our defensive line coach when Rod Marinelli left town. I let him coach running backs, and he did an outstanding job.

"He has outstanding people skills. He's a relentless worker. And he's loyal.''

The numbers speak well of Bisaccia, too. This year, the Bucs were first in kickoff return average, second in opponents' kickoff return average and first in blocked kicks. In the Bucs' first 497 games, they had zero kickoff returns for touchdowns. In the past 35 games, they have had three.

Ah, but the question remains. Could Bisaccia do the job at USF?

"I think he'd be fantastic,'' Brooks said. "He would take up where Coach Leavitt left off, and he would take the program in another dimension. He would provide instant credibility. He's a leader of men.''

Sapp: "Oh, my goodness. You have to talk to the man. You can see the passion and fire in him. He has the ability to touch the star player or the kid who has no shot. The man is special. I love Rich.''

Lynch: "I think Rich is special, I really do. He makes a lot of sense. He was always more than a special teams coach to our teams. He was a skilled communicator.''

Alstott: "He's a man who has honesty, integrity and a work ethic. I think Rich is one of the best coaches I've ever had.''

Graham: "I think USF would be a great situation for him. He does a great job of getting the best out of young people. He pushed me, but he did it in a respectful way. I wasn't playing fast enough when I first came into the league. I don't think my career would be what it has been if it wasn't for him.''

Ah, but could Bisaccia recruit? Could he look a kid in the eye and convince him to come aboard for four years?

Lynch chuckles at the question.

"Oh, yeah, he could do that,'' Lynch said. "He's full of energy, and he's genuine. And he can tell some great stories.''

Brooks tells the story of being with former FSU teammate Derrick Alexander recently when the two ran into Bisaccia. Immediately, the conversation turned into a discussion of how Bisaccia once tried to recruit Alexander to South Carolina, and he got him to commit before Alexander went to the Seminoles.

"Just seeing what an impression that made on Alexander, that he still remembered something that happened when he was in high school, told me something,'' Brooks said.

If any former Buc player appreciates Bisaccia, it is Dave Moore, who reached the Pro Bowl as a long snapper in 2006 while playing for him.

"I'm a big fan of his,'' Moore said. "It's my thought that a head coach doesn't have to be a real technical X's and O's guy. You're more of a guy who manages coaches and who understands the game of football. You have to coordinate the whole game. One of the things he says is that it isn't the X's and the O's, it's the Larrys and the Joes.

"You have to look at what he's done here. They don't ask special teams coaches who they want to draft. He finds ways to motivate his players to play.''

No, the players say, the fact that Bisaccia has spent most of his time coaching special teams shouldn't hurt. Ravens coach John Harbaugh, for instance, coached special teams.

Yes, it's easy to wonder if Bisaccia could run a program. Could he deal with boosters, with the media, with recruiting, with the Big East? Could he avoid second-half fades?

"I think you have to look at the big picture,'' Moore said. "A consistent knock is that he's not a real outspoken guy. You're going to have to talk to guys who have played for him to see how he motivates and teaches the game. You have to decide if you're looking for a name guy to come in for recruiting purposes, or a guy who is qualified to get the job done.

"He's not a self-promoter. He's not tooting his own horn. But if you take an hour and look at what he's done, he certainly has the qualifications.''

Does this mean that USF administrators should hang up the phone on Skip Holtz? Or forget about other candidates? Of course not.

On the other hand, some fairly impressive voices are speaking.

If I was in charge of hiring a new coach, I would at least listen.

In bid for USF coaching job, Rich Bisaccia has endorsement of some big Bucs 01/12/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 8:19am]

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