One of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies – The Godfather Part II – involves gangster Hyman Roth giving a lecture to fellow mobster Michael Corleone.
Roth, played brilliantly by Lee Strasberg, is complaining about the fact Corleone had one of Roth’s best friends, Moe Greene, executed. Roth makes the point that he didn’t raise a stink about Greene’s murder because he said to himself, “This is the life we have chosen.”
So it goes for football coaches when someone gets fired. They don’t like it. Ultimately they have little choice but to accept it’s the reality of the profession they have chosen. That’s what is happening at the University at Buffalo in the wake of last week’s firing of Jeff Quinn.
UB interim coach Alex Wood expressed his surprise over the move last week and his gratitude to Quinn for giving him work. But as Wood prepared his team this week, he made it clear he is conditioned to a here-and-now, move-forward perspective. The 59-year-old Wood is in his 37th year of coaching.
Said Wood: “I’ve always approached it that way. In my business, are you kidding me? There’s no security. Why get uptight about any of that stuff? Because if you don’t win the game, they’re going to get you anyway. So win the game. Make that your focus. I don’t get uptight about it. I like to live on the edge a little bit.”
Wood on his players’ mindset: “These guys are high character gentlemen, young men. They’ve responded appropriately, in my opinion, because they don’t like it. It’s left a nasty taste in their mouth, and I think they want to do better.”
UB defensive coordinator Lou Tepper is in his 48th year of coaching. How is he approaching each work day?
“I’m loving it,” Tepper said. “Every day with these guys is a blessing for me. We talk about it. We’re able to converse about it and talk about it and hug and we’ll probably have tears at some point. But this part is very meaningful to me.”
“I think Alex has done a good job of getting them back. There’s no question that was hard on all of us. It’s different. When I got fired at Illinois, I had been there for nine years, they fired me and I was there the last three weeks. They fired me but I coached. It was three of the most memorable weeks in my career. We measured every day. We knew we were going to have separation. But we measured every day. There were a lot of hugs and tears. It allowed you to have closure. For Jeff, for him to just be gone, I pray for him every day. The work you put in as a head coach is different than everybody else in the program. This is like losing a child. It’s one thing to have separation but you can still see them every day for three weeks. It’s another thing to be separated and you don’t even have a chance to speak with them. So we get closure, he doesn’t.”
“I owe it to these guys to give it my best,” Tepper said of the players.
Said Wood on the staff: “We’re still working for the University at Buffalo. We represent UB. Everybody needs to do that with class and distinction and do it in a professional atmosphere. And these guys understand that. That’s why there were no issues once Danny White decided I would be the interim coach. We’ve all worked together well.”