PITTSBURGH – Even before new Pitt head football coach Todd Graham stepped behind a podium for the first time in Pittsburgh, he showed he was drastically different from the man before him.
In one sentence, Graham let us in to what type of personality he has.
After Steve Pederson gave his opening address and introduced Graham’s family, who were all brought forth to stand next to the podium, he called up Graham.
“You guys can see, I’m a good recruiter,” Graham said – in other words, I picked a good one – as he pulled his wife forward for an extra second in front of the crowd.
It was a slight moment of light-heartedness – much more than we ever saw from former coach Mike Haywood – and one of several on the afternoon.
Haywood spent just 16 days as Pitt head coach before being fired after spending a weekend in jail on a domestic violence charge in Indiana.
When he was introduced on Dec. 16, Haywood appeared nervous. He seemed to slur through his words at the beginning of his statement, clearly taken aback by the amount of media, alumni and members of the Pitt athletic department on hand.
Haywood rarely smiled in the entire press conference, speaking in a very serious tone. He sounded scripted and preached his strict, disciplinary style, which he clearly embodied.
Graham was anything but.
Yes, Graham preached building men of character at his press conference. Any successful coach has those ideals.
But he gave us more. He told Pitt fans he had high expectations – he wants to not only win Big East championships, but national championships. He listed five goals, and his third, fourth and fifth items were what every fan wants.
“No. 3, we wanna be Big East champions; No. 4, we wanna be BCS bowl champions; and No. 5, we wanna be national champions,” Graham said.
We never heard that from Haywood.
Graham said he wants to transform Pitt in to the most explosive team in the country. He also said Pitt will embody what Pittsburgh is – a blue-collar, hard-working group of people.
To be that, Graham said Pitt will be fast and explosive. In turn, he wants fans at Heinz Field to get a good workout, jumping out of their seats to celebrate touchdown after touchdown.
“We’re a no-huddle football team,” he said. “We’re gonna operate extremely fast. Fast tempo, high-octane, explosive – we’ll be the most explosive team in the country. That’s our goal.”
He later added, “I want people that are going to Heinz Field to not sit down in their seat.”
Haywood said little to that effect.
Graham went on to introduce his staff — yes, he had five coaches there with him – and said he intends to make this year’s recruiting class great. That’s saying a lot, considering the list has dwindled from around 20 commits to just a handful of players left through the recent coaching changes.
“We’ll put together one of the finest recruiting classes ever, I believe,” he said. “I walked through this campus, I walked down these halls – the opportunity to do that is just phenomenal.”
Haywood spoke of recruiting, but clearly didn’t have as firm of a plan in place.
So it became very clear to me, after 26 minutes and nine seconds of hearing Graham talk, that he is the right guy for this job.
He has his stuff together and he has a great personality, it seems. He has a clear vision of where Pitt should be and he seems determined to get the program there.
He was humbled by the history and success the Pitt program has had in the past (his personal favorite is Mike Ditka, by the way).
And you could tell that Graham knows what he does, and he knows he does it well.
It took some time – more than we’d all like.
But Pitt got it right with Graham.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog