The Incomparable Vinny Fazio
To know Vinny Fazio is to know your favorite new coach.
Fazio recently agreed to become the head football coach at Rialto Eisenhower High School, succeeding Patrick Lord, who was 5-25 in three seasons.
It’s Fazio’s first head coaching job, and comes a year after an appearance in a CIF-Southern Section Central Division semifinal as defensive coordinator at Rialto Carter.
And now he’s going to do great things at Eisenhower. The Eagles have struggled in recent seasons, compiling a 25-55 record since their last playoff appearance in 2006, but Fazio’s defensive pedigree is as good as the Inland Area has ever seen, and he is among the Area’s best young coaches.
His father, Skip Fazio, was the defensive coordinator when Fontana High School won the 1987 national championship, and had several successful season as the defensive coordinator at Univ. of Redlands.
I got to know Fazio while he was a student-athlete at Claremont Mudd-Scripps, where he excelled as a linebacker playing in NCAA Division 3′s Southern California Inter-Scholastic Athletic Conference.
He covered high school football games for The Sun newspaper in San Bernardino where I, working sports desk at The Sun, would set up his computer terminal every Friday night from 2001-2004. (No one used a laptop really, even then).
Admittedly, we haven’t stayed in contact, though I did e-mail him when I heard from a mutual friend that the former prep football stringer was about to take Ike’s head job.
Here’s his answers to a few questions:
What factors did you consider in accepting the job?
“Obviously the tradition is important to me,” Fazio writes. “Coach Hoak and the Eagles were the villians in my bedtime stories when I was a little kid. Ike football is very important to the Rialto community, the Inland Empire, and to me personally. It hurts me that they have struggled these past years. I think the Principal, Mr. Sanchez, being a former football coach is a big deal. He really gets it. We have a great superintendent in Rialto and he is another guy who really gets the importance of athletics as well. I also have a ton of respect for AD Coach Johnson. I’ve known him since covering his games for the Sun. I also think that they have some guys. There are some good players there and they play pretty hard. Pat Lord did a nice job of getting kids out and getting them competitive again. They were very competitive last year in most games. I think the support and talent base gives us a chance to continue to improve going forward. It’s not a total rebuild.”
Any thought to staying at Carter? Those Lions beat my alma mater, La Sierra, in the quarters.
“I was extremely happy at Carter. I have a great relationship with Coach Pierce and the administration there. It was going to have to be the right situation to get me to leave and Ike is the right situation. The La Sierra game was a wild one. They were super talented and that Coach has them going. They are going to be extremely good. We played probably our best defensive game against them and that’s what it was going to take to win. That (Johnny Salazar) quarterback kid is going to be way dangerous next year.”
You’re just, what… 32, 33? That’s pretty young to be a head coach. What makes you think you’re prepared for this step?
“I’m 30 going on 31. It is a daunting challenge and a great responsibility. I really see myself as a Steward to Coach Hoak’s program. I want us to value the same things that he valued: Toughness, physicality, and great effort. If we can get everyone pulling in the same direction and doing it the Eagle way we are going to have success. I think I have learned a lot from Coach Bruich, Coach Maynard, Coach Candaele, my Dad, and from watching guys like Coach Hoak and Coach Johnson up close. I think we have a good system. It has worked at Fontana, Claremont, Redlands, and Carter. I think we have an idea of how to get kids to play hard and allow them to cut it loose and have fun. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive about this challenge but I’m also super excited to get started.”
Coaching obviously runs in the family. What did your Dad say when you told him you were going to be a head coach?
“He was very excited for me. We talked a lot about it going through the interview process and the decision-making process. He really is a great resource for me. We talk 2-3 times every single day. He is the single greatest influence that I have in coaching and the best coach I’ve ever been around. I’m really lucky to have him around.”
Any plans to make him your DC?
“Haha. You were the first guy to ask me this. I’m not allowed to make any official staff announcements yet but the qualifications for our Defensive Coordinator position include 22 years of high school coordinator experience, 10 years of college coordinator experience, and a high school National Championship. Haha. In all honesty I expect us to put together a very good staff on both sides of the ball.”
Expect Eisenhower to be a much tougher, more disciplined team in 2012. And third place and a playoff spot from the Citrus Belt League perpetually up for grabs, who knows how far Fazio and the Eagles can soar.