PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Todd Graham wants his players at Arizona State to be championship caliber athletes, students, men and husbands. That’s what he wants to teach them.
He wants them to learn about perseverance and hard work, about team work and loyalty.
Every single thing Graham wants his players to be are things he clearly doesn’t embody.
Graham sat in front of the Arizona State media Wednesday just hours after ditching his Pitt team for a new gig. As he spoke to them for the first time, his insincerity and arrogance immediately clicked.
I sat in the Panthers Southside complex when Graham was hired at Pitt back in January. I listened to every word he said and watched every speck of body language he gave. It was all exactly the same as what I saw in Arizona Wednesday.
Graham started by first apologizing to his players at Pitt. He said he wanted to say sorry. He said he made sure to let his team know he was leaving in the only way he knew how.
Apparently cowardice is his “go-to.”
It’s so easy to apologize to players you promised the world to when you put thousands of miles in between.
Graham then moved on and talked about how he marveled over Sun Devil Stadium when he arrived at Arizona State. That sure sounds familiar to when he spoke of marveling at the nine national championship trophies and the lockers of Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, Mark May and others when arriving at Pitt.
He talked about enlisting the alumni to help build the program, just as he did at Pitt. He spoke to the Arizona State recruits and told them to get ready for high-octane football, which is what got Pitt fans and players so excited for the program’s future just 11 months ago.
He even brought up his family in front of all in attendance. He stood next to his wife, who was 100 percent Pitt until she deleted her Twitter account out of the blue Wednesday morning, and his two sons, one of which dressed up like the Pitt Panther, Roc, for home games at Heinz Field.
Alongside them, he said this job was a dream job for he and his family. Funny thing is, he called Pitt a dream job and labeled it the best coaching staff he’s ever been with upon arrival in Pittsburgh.
Graham went on to talk about how his family has had to “endure” over the last few hours. At that point I had to tune out.
I couldn’t help but think of Pitt players, who busted their butts in the offseason to condition themselves for Graham’s new system. I thought of linebacker Max Gruder, who told me he was as excited as he’s ever been in his career because of the style of play Graham promised. I thought of wide receiver Cam Saddler, who couldn’t help but call into Sports Radio 93-7 The FAN immediately after Graham was hired because of how excited he was.
I even thought of quarterback Tino Sunseri, who was constantly thrown under the bus by Graham and eventually booed in Pitt’s final home game as he tried to adjust and please his coach.
Those and roughly 90 other Pitt players are still waiting for Graham to actually address them. They all did everything they could to be the players Graham wanted, but he couldn’t be the coach he promised to be.
He spoke of character and loyalty at Pitt, but wasn’t man enough to speak to his players before making a decision that would change all of their lives.
Graham says he plans to eventually speak with his former players face to face. I’m not really sure what’s even left to say at this point. The type of person and coach Graham is has now come to the forefront.
Those players will have to endure yet another coaching search and be introduced to their fourth coach in a year’s time. What’s certain, though, is the next hire is more likely to live up to his word than Graham.
To be quite frank, you’d have to try pretty hard to fool everyone at Pitt to the level Graham achieved.
Because of that, Pitt just might be better off.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog