I know that I promised to split the GDF interview into just two segments, but honestly there's simply too much material for me to do that so I'm going to have to split it into three posts. His thoughts on our reader questions and the man in yellow will have to come tomorrow.
Part I of the morning coffee series with Gene DeFilippo mainly concentrated on the football team. My strategy going into the first part of the interview was to ask some of the questions that I had seen other bloggers and readers raise in regards to how involved GDF was with the football team, and I was glad that GDF took the opportunity to clarify and defend his role. The second half of the interview was designed to touch a little on basketball, and to bring out, at least as far as I could in a short interview, the less formal side of GDF. Enjoy!
From an athletic department perspective, what are some things that help a department stay competitive athletically without compromising academics?
If you ask me the toughest part of my job, I would tell you that it's balancing athletics and academics. Without question. On one side, we have Father Leahy and the Board of Trustees, and the faculty, and they want us to recruit very, very good students and to graduate those students. On the other hand, we have the coaches and the alumni, and the fans, and they want to win. And I say, tongue in cheek a lot of times, that our alumns can be tough at times. They want us to be Harvard Monday through Friday and Alabama on Saturday afternoon and that's tough to do. But, then, we've had 12 consecutive winning teams.
We've been to 12 consecutive bowl games, and, you know what, I remember when I got here...When I got here in 1997, the football team had three winning teams in 10 years and hockey had six consecutive losing teams. Six! And the basketball coach had left and most of the players had transferred out. So when I look back, and see where we've been and where we are now, I realize that these coaches and these student athletes have done a phenomenal job in the last decade and they really need to get the credit for it.
Just switching gears to basketball...It seems that the basketball program might take a step back next year. But nonetheless it seems like it will be an exciting season to see all the new recruits and freshmen coming together and implementing Donahue's system...
Well, first of all, Michael, who says we're going to take a step back? That's not necessarily true. Will we be young? Yes, we'll be very young. But we'll be very, very talented. I just got an e-mail from O'Donnell out in California, and Chris has told me that the top ten players in the State of California were just named and BC has two of them. So, we have a Parade All-American coming, and we have the Gatorade Player of the Year [for California] coming. We also have a local young man who's coming, and [he] is going to be a terrific player for us. And, we're not finished with this class yet. So, let's see. We'll be very talented and, let's just see what happens.
Well, as far as your Gatorade Player of the Year goes, he says he's looking for a warm jacket and size 16 boots. So any suggestions on where to go for that?
You know what? I don't know about that (laughs). I'm not sure you can buy size 16 shoes anywhere. I read that too and I got a chuckle out of it (laughs). I'm really, really going to enjoy this young man. He's got a sense of humor and he's going to be fun to be around for four years.
If you were going to suggest one non-major sport for either students or alumni to check out, what would it be and why?
You know what, I can't come up with one sport. I really can't. If you look at our Olympic sports, they're just so much fun. Our women's lacrosse team, I was on the sidelines Saturday and they had a big win over Virginia, beat them 12-6, and Virginia was highly ranked. To see the excitement on those women's faces and their coaches hugging each other. I mean, it's just awesome. It's something you just can't describe. When I go with the women's hockey team to the frozen four and we're down 2-0 and we tie the game and get beat with 48 seconds to go, your heart goes out to our players.
You know we went to the final four in women's soccer. A couple of years ago we were the number 1 seed in all of the NCAA tournament in men's soccer. They're all great sports to go see. They just really are. I couldn't pick just one. I'm fortunate that I get to be there for all of them.
You mentioned women's hockey in passing. How amazing has Coach King been with the hockey team over the past few years?
She's been awesome. You know she's done a great job. Again, that's another thing. When we got here women's hockey had no scholarships and they had a part-time coach. And now, within two years we'll have 18 scholarships. We have a full time coach and a full time assistant. Coach King has done an awesome job but Tom Peters and our other administrators have helped with money, with scholarships, with facilities...all that. You ask Coach York one of the reasons that he's able to recruit so well and it's the facilities here.
If you were to go to Coach York's locker room, he picked out the lockers that he wanted. I think he chose the Minnesota Wild...and he picked out the lockers they had and we ordered them. His locker room is just phenomenal. And, the two boards at either end, they're 700,000 dollars a piece. If you look at the trophy cases and you look at the other end, with the Varsity Club Hall of Fame and all that, that all makes a difference. We've completely renovated the weight room. We've completely renovated the training room. Facilities are so important, Michael, when you're recruiting. We've got to make sure that our facilities stay among the best, so we work on them all the time.
What was your best day at the office as BC's athletic director?
I can't tell you any one day...But I think...I wasn't at the office this day. I work everyday usually, whether it's Thanksgiving or Christmas or what. But this Christmas I did take off. And I remember waking up on Christmas Day and I had the best feeling that I've had in my 14 years here. And it was that there were going to be a lot of happy children in the Boston area because of our student athletes. Our student athletes collected so many Toys for Tots and so many clothes and we took care of so many families that this room was filled from the clock, Michael, all the way over, from the floor to the ceiling [editor's note: From "the clock...all the way over" represents about a 15 foot by 12 foot space]. And we filled it with toys and clothes and there were 40 of us wrapping downstairs at one time.
We had administrators, and coaches, and players, and staff, and we were all eating pizza and laughing and wrapping. And everyone was teasing me because I can't wrap worth a darn (laughs) but we had the most fun, and when I woke up Christmas morning I thought "there are so many children in the Boston area who are going to be happy because they're going to have a Christmas. And I think that's the best feeling I've had in my 14 years here.
Part III will come out tomorrow morning. In it, GDF discusses our reader questions, the possibility of the book store carrying yellow suits, and more...