During a five-minute span, new Pacelli football coach Alan Griffin referenced the man whose place he will take more than 10 times.
He described differences between himself and former Vikings coach Randy Grace, he praised the job Grace did at returning his program to excellence, and he thanked Grace for the endorsement he gave to help land Griffin the head coaching position.
The impact Grace had on Pacelli football, Griffin said, could not be overestimated. But Griffin also took note of something during the transition after Grace left that meant a lot to him as a coach.
In a day when transferring to a preferred high school due to changes within one’s own program is considered the norm, not a single Pacelli player defected after Grace announced his resignation.
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“It certainly makes me feel good,” said Griffin, who is also the boys basketball coach. “I’m proud to be a part of this program. (Grace) could have just left and said good luck, but he cared enough about this program to have me and several other coaches involved with the day-to-day operations over the past four years so that when he did leave, we could just come back in and pick up where we left off.”
And, so, the transition has been a smooth one. The schemes have not changed, the goals have not changed, the personnel has not changed. While Griffin may have a different practice style or different pet peeves than his predecessor, the foundation of the program has largely gone untouched.
That isn’t to say, of course, that Griffin isn’t anxious to put his own mark on the program. He views the program over the past decade rather than the four-year resurgence it has experienced. So, while back-to-back seven-win seasons were certainly big steps, he’d like to see the Vikings return to the plateau they were at 10 years ago when they finished their second straight 11-1 season.
“My goal every year is to be better than where we started,” Griffin said. “We talk about paying the fee — focus, execution and energy. We’ve been focused on every rep, every play. In the past, we’ve been fantastic three out of four plays. How good could we be if we could be fantastic four out of four plays?”
As high as the expectations are for his program, Griffin admitted that part of what motivates him is the fear that he can’t succeed like he wants to. He is filling such large shoes and has such high expectations for his team, that he fears the inability to keep the ship afloat. But that’s what drives him, he said.
“I’m proving to myself daily that I can absolutely lead this team and that we can achieve great things,” he said. “When (Grace) left, we talked about getting to the next step. How do we get to 8 or 9 wins? How do we get to the second or third round? Because the pieces are here.
“It’s funny, I believe in failure. I believe failure is one of the most important things we can learn from. Everything I’ve done, I’ve had my failures and successes, but I believe my successes have grown from those failures. I think it will be the same way with this team.”