Legendary Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio called it a career earlier this year in February following several milestone-setting years in East Lansing.
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Among the accolades he earned included three Big Ten championships, two Big Ten coach of the year awards, the 2014 Rose Bowl, and an appearance in the 2015 College Football playoff.
“There were a lot of things I had to think about in terms of my time with them,” Dantonio said about his decision to retire. “Made that tough choice and retired in February, after a lot of sleepless nights thinking about it.”
“There’s inevitably always a time when you have to step away,” Dantonio said. “Some people are forced to step away, others are not. I just felt this was the time. February has always been my reset button. Recruiting was done. At that point, we sat down as a family and made this decision. That’s the deal.”
2020 marks the first year since 1980 that Dantonio isn’t coaching. Naturally, there’s a bit of an adjustment period.
“It takes a little bit of time to settle because it’s different,” Dantonio said. “It’s been a unique year where you had to detach yourself. Because of the pandemic, everything was shut down. I thought I would be able to gradually step away in a sense that maybe (I could) go watch a practice, go watch a scrimmage or something of that nature. Maybe go have dinner with some players. I haven’t been able to do that.
“This is the first year I’ve not coached for 41 years. But it’s been OK. It’s been OK.”
Among Dantonio’s favorite moments while coaching the Spartans include, naturally, wins over arch-rival Michigan. The shocking finish to the 2015 edition of the in-state rivalry game could never have been scripted – or was something that the team had even practiced.
“The night before (playing Michigan in 2015), they came out of their team meeting, and they were hyped. The next morning, we were on the way to the stadium at Michigan. I was like, ‘We got to get that buzz back, we got to get that hype back.’ As we pulled up — and it’s always emotional, everyone is screaming and yelling at you — it’s a good feel. They still do that just walking around. But I said, ‘Nobody gets off the bus until I tell them to.’ Dead bus. I stood up and counted to 10. I said, ‘I want you to think about what it’s going to be like in the last 10 seconds of the game, what it’s going to be like, where we’re going to be.’ I counted to 10, and then we got off the bus.
“And then the last 10 seconds occurred. That’s something we never practiced. I just said, ‘Come off the edge, don’t put a guy back. Give them one more that they’ve got to block.’ The rest of it just happened. That’s something that I’ll forever hang on to.”
You can bet that Michigan State’s upset win over Ohio State in 2013 is among the memories that Dantonio looks back upon fondly.
“My favorite one might be, obviously, the Michigan ones were big. The Iowa game (in 2015) was huge. The Ohio State championship game (in 2013) was huge. The Holiday Bowl (in the 2017 season) because we bounced back. That season, we rebounded from a tough season (3-9 record) the year before with a lot of problems. There’s a lot of things you can’t control, on and off the field. Bouncing back and winning 10 games that year was a point of focus.”
– – Quotes via Evan Petzold of The Detroit Free Press Link – –