It’s hard to believe, but Rick Giampietri can’t remember the last time he had to hire an assistant football coach for his Central Valley staff.
“Just about everybody we have now was with me when I started as head coach in 1993,” he said. “Kent came along in about 1998, the year after he stepped down as head coach at West Valley, but most everyone else has been there from the beginning.”
The fact that his staff has, for the most part, stayed together and enter their 22nd season when practice opens Wednesday is astonishing. The fact that they will likely pick up their 150th win together this season is a testament to their effectiveness. That they all maintain their passion for both the game and the young people who play it is remarkable only if you’ve never watched Giampietri on the practice field.
“For me, game days are kind of a distraction,” he said. “I’m much happier getting in there and working with kids. Kids need direction and sometimes you have to get after them. But you can do that and let them know that you’re still their friend and you’re still there for them.
“If all you do is coach the coaches, it gets old pretty fast.”
Rick Giampietri had already spent 22 years as an assistant coach under Jerry Connors, including a decade at CV, when he was hired to be the head coach. As a North Central grad who played football at Eastern Washington State College, Giampietri had a host of football connections to work from and he surrounded himself with people he knew and who had a wealth of experience.
Tim Connors had been an assistant with Giampietri at Lewis and Clark and CV under Jerry Connors and stayed on. Brother Sam Giampietri had been a head coach at Republic, Pomeroy and Chewelah when he joined the staff, and Rick Sloan, Steve Bernard, Barry Poffenroth and Chuck Bowden are each a CV head coach in their own right.
Pat Pfeifer stepped down as head football coach at Ferris in 1994 and signed on with CV. Pfeifer and Giampietri grew up and played football together at North Central.
Steve Kent was a late arrival – joining the staff in 1998 after stepping down as head coach at West Valley for 13 seasons.
“I guess the Butner brothers are the new guys on the staff,” Giampietri laughed. “I think this is Ryan’s 13th season and 20 something for Mark.”
Retaining assistant coaches never has been much of a problem. Pfeifer passed away in 2009 after a three-year struggle with pancreatic cancer. Poffenroth had to retire from coaching after last season.
“I think he’d still like to continue coaching,” Giampietri said. “But the retirement plan he’s on won’t let him.”
When you add up the accumulated coaching experience this group has amassed, you quickly discover that you’re talking in terms of centuries and not just decades. Giampietri and his brother alone combine for 85 years of coaching experience. Kent adds more than three decades.
Giampietri insists that his formula was simple: find good people and trust them to do their jobs according to their overall philosophy.
If those good people also have head coaching experience, so much the better.
“They make my job so much easier,” he said. “They come in and ask ‘What do you need, coach’ and then to just go and get the job done.”
The coach said he has always enjoyed getting together with his staff outside of football, and he’s nurtured his relationships by being a friend and mentor.
Sloan, the head boys basketball coach, credits his relationship with Giampietri as the foundation of his coaching philosophy. As the offensive coordinator, Sloan is an extension of the program.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together,” Giampietri said. “When his family was younger, we’d take family trips together. We still take golf trips to Canada together – when we do Rick and I spend the whole time talking football and our wives enjoy being together and talk about something else.
“Rick has a history of making good, tough decisions in the heat of a game. I trust him to make the right call. I may put my two cents in, but in the end, I trust his gut decisions and let him make the final decision.”
Kent, the team’s defensive coordinator, has a similar relationship with the coach.
“Steve can jump in and coach any position on the field,” he said. “I trust him to make the right call. It’s the same thing – I will offer my advice, but I trust him to make the call.”
Giampietri’s hiring model is classic: hire good people.
“Well, we’re definitely not doing this for the money,” he laughed.