Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Story of Not Giving Up on Your Dream - The Story Behind Bear Mangenius

The New York Times recently ran a feature story about Mark "Bear" Mangino, head football coach at Kansas....I highly recommend that everyone take a few minutes to read it because it tells the story of a person who did not give up on his dream and who worked hard to become a success......

November 24, 2007
The Detours of a Coaching Life

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Nov. 23 — With Kansas only two victories from playing for college football’s national championship, perhaps the only thing more unlikely than its undefeated record and No. 2 Bowl Championship Series ranking is Coach Mark Mangino’s ascent to the top of his profession.

Kansas (11-0, 7-0 Big 12) is the only team from a major conference without a loss. The Jayhawks play archrival Missouri (10-1, 6-1) here Saturday for a spot in the conference title game. If Kansas or No. 4 Missouri wins the Big 12 title, it will most likely play for the national championship Jan. 8.

It is fitting that Mangino, 51, is being credited for reviving a program that had been a doormat for so long.

For 13 years, beginning while he was finishing his degree at Youngstown State in Ohio and continuing while he tried to build a career as a coach, Mangino worked on the 11 p.m.-to-7 a.m. shift for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as an emergency first responder, driving an ambulance, cleaning up bathrooms and removing dead deer from the road. “He didn’t sleep very much,” said Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel, who was the coach at Youngstown State for a year while Mangino worked there as a student assistant. “It was amazing. Anybody that put himself through the schedule he did, I knew he was going to go places.”

Before he made millions pacing the sideline, Mangino traversed a stretch of 25 miles on Interstate 76 near Homewood, Pa. His job, which he started in the late 1970s, included responding to wrecks along the turnpike, providing medical attention to victims and transporting them to the hospital.

Mangino was routinely called to fatal accidents, including one involving a young woman who had been struck by a vehicle while walking on the turnpike. He often drove the ambulance in those situations because of his good sense of direction and calm demeanor.

“He learned to suck it up sometimes,” said Sam Flora, who was Mangino’s partner on the turnpike. “The bottom line is it built character.”

Those days spent balancing family, work, coaching football and attending school forged a work ethic that shaped Mangino as a coach. The same guy who would study for tests, peek at snippets of game film and take power naps during his graveyard shift now works long hours each day as a coach. He is so exacting that some on his staff grumble about his demanding style, although such complaints are not made publicly.
His admirers say the hefty, balding man known as Bear — the same nickname his father had — is a product of where he came from. Born and raised in New Castle, a working class town of 25,000 in western Pennsylvania, Mangino lived in a predominantly Italian-Catholic neighborhood surrounded by family.

In junior high, he worked in his uncle’s corner grocery store stocking shelves
At New Castle High School, Mangino was a 5-foot-9, 230-pound defensive tackle.
His coach there, Lindy Lauro, refers to Mangino as “my own son.” As a senior, Mangino played a significant role on a team that won a Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League championship.

He was a defensive stalwart,” said his former teammate Rick Razzano, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals. “He was very aggressive.”

Mangino’s path diverted from football soon after. He still regrets not playing at Youngstown State after graduating from high school in 1974. He worked as a custodian the next summer and dropped out of college in 1976.

I didn’t take college real seriously,” he said.

But even while Mangino played for a local traveling baseball team, he was determined to get back to playing football.

I certainly missed it,” he said. “I learned if you make a bad decision in life and you want to get it corrected, it’s a hard, tough road to do that. You have to be willing to pay the price to do it. I made up my mind at that time that I was going to pay the price and do what it took to be a college football coach.”

While working nights on the turnpike, Mangino returned to football. He started in 1980 at a junior high and then became an assistant coach at New Castle High.
Mangino decided to finish his bachelor’s degree, so he went back to Youngstown State and worked as an assistant coach to pay for school. He juggled school, a wife and two children, and work before graduating in 1987.

He had a passion,” Tressel said. “He was not going to be denied. He was going to grind it out until good things happened.”

At the age of 31, Mangino took a job as an offensive coordinator at Geneva (Pa.) College. In 1990, he had his first high school head coaching job, at Ellwood (Pa.) High School, but was fired after one year, a 1-9 season in which he clashed with the parents of his players.

Eager to return to college football, Mangino called his former high school teammate John Latina, then an offensive line coach at Kansas State, and asked if Latina could help him become a graduate assistant with the Wildcats.

Flora still remembers the day that Mangino told him he was going to Kansas State.
The two car-pooled to work and Flora had just picked him up when Mangino said, “I’m taking a shot.”

At 35, Mangino packed his family and belongings into a Ryder truck and moved 975 miles to Manhattan, Kan., with only $500 in his pocket for a job that paid less than $1,000 monthly.

There, Mangino and his family lived briefly in Latina’s basement. It did not take long, however, to make an impression on the demanding Kansas State coach, Bill Snyder.

“He had a fun time doing what he did,” Snyder said in a telephone interview.
Mangino fit in well, from quickly becoming Snyder’s most trusted aide to dominating lunch-time racquetball matches with Bob Stoops, then a Kansas State assistant.
“He’d smoke him,” said Brent Venables, Oklahoma’s co-defensive coordinator, who was also on that Kansas State staff. “He was quick on his feet for a big fellow.”
Venables described Mangino as affable, but acknowledged that he could be intense. That was demonstrated when Mangino dressed down a player for a celebration penalty earlier this season. The profanity-laced tirade became part of YouTube lore.
“He’s almost bipolar,” Venables said of Mangino. “He’s really funny, but when it comes to football, he’s extremely organized, detail-oriented and very intense. Off the field, he’s like a gentle giant.”

Stoops grew up 30 miles from Mangino and sees his personality as a reflection of the area where they were reared.

“It’s just a blue-collar, earn-what-you-get, tough attitude that you go to work with every day,” Stoops said.

Stoops hired Mangino on his staff at Oklahoma after getting the head job there in late 1998. In 2000, Mangino was promoted to offensive coordinator and the Sooners won the national title. That season, he received the Frank Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in college football.

“Don’t forget to send a telegram to the Ellwood City school board and thank them for having let you go,” Lauro wrote in a note to Mangino that accompanied a congratulatory bottle of Champagne.

Mangino would remain at Oklahoma one more season before being hired by Kansas in December 2001. Al Bohl, the former Kansas athletic director who hired Mangino, was also the first to give head coaching jobs to Alabama Coach Nick Saban, Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel and Fresno State Coach Pat Hill.

Mangino went 2-10 his first season, and while the team made progress and played in two bowl games by the end of 2005, those accomplishments were dwarfed by the Kansas basketball program.

After going 6-6 last season and failing to make a bowl game, Mangino started this season with questions about his job security. Thanks in part to a soft out-of-conference schedule that allowed the Jayhawks to build confidence, Mangino and his $1.5 million salary now look like a bargain instead of just another Kansas coach struggling for mediocrity.

Mangino, who has a career record of 36-35, said he was content at Kansas, which will open a $31 million football complex in July. “I never say never, but I’m not out looking for a job,” he said.

As interest has built in the Jayhawks this season, the one topic that Mangino has deftly avoided is his weight.

Mangino said he was not bothered by such talk, despite being the target of snide T-shirts that say “Our Coach Beat Anorexia” and “Our Coach Can Eat Your Coach.” Mangino said he rode a stationary bicycle once or twice a week and said he should do so more frequently.

“Everybody has flaws,” Mangino said of his weight. “Some are more obvious than others. Some people do a good job hiding their flaws and can fool people.”
Kansas Athletic Director Lew Perkins said Mangino’s weight was “a very, very personal thing.”

“I don’t look at his size or anything as a flaw,” Perkins said. “I just look at him as a person.”

As he has come to the forefront of his profession, Mangino has not forgotten his past. On Thanksgiving, he sent an e-mail to Flora, who said Mangino was more concerned about the guys at the turnpike than football.

They will be tuned in Saturday, as many others will be across the country, amazed at just how far Mark Mangino has come.

“It was like a guardian angel followed him all the way through this,” Flora
Pete Thamel contributed reporting.

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