Archive for Thursday, January 19, 2006

Baker alum hired as NFL head coach

January 19, 2006

Baker University alumnus Mike McCarthy, who played football for the Wildcats in the mid-1980s was named head coach of the Green Bay Packers Thursday, becoming the first Baker alumnus to lead a major pro sports team.

The news put smiles on the faces of Baker University Athletic Director Dan Harris and Baker football coach Mike Grossner, both of whom are close friends of McCarthy.

"I was excited, especially knowing how hard he has worked," said Grossner, who was teammates with McCarthy at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College. "He has climbed the ladder the proper way. He has worked with good people. I think he is ready for it. He has prepared himself."

Harris said the hiring was a result of McCarthy's work ethic.

"I always knew Mike (McCarthy) was the kind of guy that was looking for the perfect job," said Harris, who was the offensive line coach at Baker when McCarthy played. "He wanted something that was his fit. To me, this is a result of his work. He found the perfect job. It's a blue-collar team and he is a blue-collar guy."

Even Baldwin High School football coach Mike Berg was excited for McCarthy. Berg played with McCarthy at Baker.

"I never thought I would know an NFL head coach," Berg said. "It's really cool."

"It seems like a small world," Berg said. "He has put his time in and deserves it. I am glad someone is giving him a shot. A lot of people are saying 'who is this guy and what is he all about?' I like his chances."

Grossner said the job opportunity is ideal for any football coach.

"To me, it's a dream job," Grossner said. "If you look at the world of football and the sport of football. If you have aspirations of being an NFL coach, I would think the Green Bay Packers head coaching position would be a dream job."

Since the news of McCarthy's hiring, many people have questioned the decision to hire him as the head coach, because of his inexperience as an NFL head coach.

Harris said he knows the Packers took a chance on McCarthy, but he believes they saw potential in him.

"I think this is a risk for Green Bay to take, but they saw something that I think a lot of people have seen along the way," Grossner said. "His work ethic, his commitment and his knowledge of the game are probably the things they were willing to take a chance on."

The choice of Green Bay was a wise one, according to Grossner.

"I think the profile of Green Bay fits his personality," Grossner said. "They are kind of a blue-collared town and he is a blue-collar guy from Pittsburgh."

Grossner said he talked to McCarthy before he interviewed for the job last week, and had a hunch he might get the job.

"I knew it was going down, because I called him Thursday morning before he was going into his interview," Grossner said. "He said he felt confident since the same administration was there that was there in 1999. I told him good luck. I went to Dallas and he went there. The next thing I know on ESPN, they are about to name him as the coach."

After McCarthy was hired, Grossner said the two of them talked about whether he would ever be an assistant for McCarthy in the NFL.

"We've discussed it," Grossner said. "I would be foolish not to consider it. We discussed it before he took the job and the parameters that surrounded it. Basically, I am not finished here. We came in here with a goal and we are going to finish it. We've been through the hard times. I want to be here during the good times."

Grossner also said that McCarthy would have to be successful in the NFL before he can have a choice on what assistants to hire. He also said he sees the two of them working together sometime down the road, but he would have a hard time leaving Baker.

"It would be hard for me to leave here," Grossner said. "I like it. My family likes it. We are going to try and finish what we started here and try and get the program to a national level."

Harris said McCarthy's hiring would help Baker in a couple different ways.

"Mike (McCarthy) is loyal to this place," Grossner said. "I guarantee two things will happen. You are going to hear Baker University mentioned on national TV and we are going to see gifts come to support our new turf."

Grossner also mentioned McCarthy has said he will give back to Baker University.

"He is always wanting to contribute," Grossner said. "He made a statement and I am going to hold him to it. Last week, he said if he got the job, he is going to give a lot back to the university and the football program."

McCarthy first attended Scottsdale Community College, where he met Grossner, before coming to Baker. He played tight end and was a team captain on Baker's 1986 team that finished 9-2 and reached the NAIA Div. II championship. He graduated in 1987 with a business degree.

"He was a very good teammate and player," Berg said. "He played tight end and his senior year we went to the national championship, so I remember a lot about him. I learned a lot from him."

Then McCarthy took a graduate assistant job at Fort Hays State University, where him and Grossner worked in 1987. His next stop landed him as a volunteer assistant coach under Mike Gottfried at the University of Pittsburgh.

Gottfried was fired after the 1989 season and Paul Hackett was promoted to head coach. Hackett made McCarthy his quarterbacks coach and later the receivers coach. Then Hackett took McCarthy to the NFL when he became the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993.

As an offensive assistant in 1993-94, McCarthy worked closely with Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and was quarterbacks coach from 1995 to 1998, coaching Steve Bono, Rich Gannon and Elvis Grbac.

In 1999, McCarthy was the Packers' quarterback coach. From 2000 to 2004, he was the New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator. McCarthy spent the 2005 NFL season as offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers. He has helped develop NFL quarterbacks Brett Favre, Jake Delhomme, Jeff Blake, Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks.

Grossner said him and McCarthy joke around about their football duties, since McCarthy started out as a defensive coordinator and Grossner was the offensive coordinator.

"It's kind of flopped around now, to where he is the offensive guru of the west coach offense," Grossner said. "He gives me smack about that, saying how he has coached all of these great quarterbacks. I just laugh and say I should have thrown him the ball some more."

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