Narduzzi hires ex-N.C. State offensive coordinator to fill Pitt vacancy

Jerry DiPaola
| Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, 2:39 p.m.

What Joe Novak remembers most about having Pat Narduzzi and Matt Canada on his Northern Illinois staff are what he called the “go-rounds” between the determined young coaches.

“They had lots of ideas and were very firm on their opinions,” Novak said, smiling at the 16-year-old memories. “They were very popular with the players.”

Novak, then the NIU coach, called the exchanges “good ... healthy.” Now they can have more “go-rounds” at Pitt.

Narduzzi got his man Friday — a year late, he said — when he hired Canada to be Pitt's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, replacing Jim Chaney.

Canada, 44, has spent the past three years as offensive coordinator at N.C. State, the fifth school at which he has called plays. He was fired unexpectedly Sunday with two years left on his contract.

Narduzzi said he wanted to hire Canada a year ago when he was building his first staff at Pitt. But Canada was contractually tied to N.C. State.

They have traded text messages and phone calls for years, and that didn't stop after Chaney left for Georgia.

“Even though guys are unavailable, they are still friends,” Narduzzi said.

When N.C. State fired Canada, Novak knew Canada's next move.

“I told my wife,” he said, “ ‘(Matt) is going to Pitt.' ”

Five days later, Canada signed a Pitt contract.

“Pitt is fortunate to get him the second time around,” Narduzzi said.

Novak was an assistant at Indiana in 1992 when Canada, a quarterback from New Palestine, Ind., whose playing career was ended by injury, showed up and asked for a job as an student assistant. He was only 20.

He has been a coach since, spending four seasons at Indiana and moving to Butler for three.

He was offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois in 2003 when it was 10-2 and defeated Alabama, Maryland and Iowa State. He returned to Indiana the following year and was offensive coordinator from 2007-10.

He was back at NIU in 2011, and when Paul Chryst became coach at Pitt in 2012, Canada replaced him as Wisconsin's offensive coordinator.

That season, the Badgers defeated Nebraska, 70-31, in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Canada said he was “surprised” when he was released by N.C. State.

“It's over now, and everything is great,” he said. “There is nothing else to talk about, other than that.”

Under Canada, N.C. State averaged 6 yards per play in 2014, second in school history. This season, the Wolfpack committed 13 turnovers, fifth fewest in the nation. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw a total of 11 interceptions the past two seasons.

“I couldn't have brought in a more experienced coordinator,” Narduzzi said. “He does a great job of getting his playmakers the football and attacking a defense's weaknesses.”

Canada, who has mainly worked in pro-style offenses, said there is a “certain toughness” about a program run by Narduzzi. “The main attraction for me was Pat Narduzzi, period,” he said.

He said Pitt will run the football “every chance we get,” but he also described his offense as “quarterback friendly.”

“We are going to do whatever we have to do to score points,” he said.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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