Teets' first game as California coach to come against all-too familiar Monessen
One coach called it “very ironic.” The other coach simply laughed and labeled it as “funny.”
What Bo Teets and Andy Pacak were talking about is the fact that Teets' first game as head coach at California will come Friday night against Monessen.
The two teams will open the season in a Class A Black Hills Conference game at California Stadium that has a little extra interest, not only because of the players on the field, but because of the coaches on the sidelines.
Teets is making his debut guiding the Trojans. However, the previous seven seasons, he served as a valuable assistant on Pacak's staff at Monessen.
Ever since the schedule was announced, the California-Monessen matchup is something both schools have been looking forward to.
“I think it is very ironic,” said Teets, who was hired in March. “I mean, I put in a lot of time and the assistants I brought with me to California also spent a lot of time coaching at Monessen. I still teach there. That school, those kids and coach Pacak are still very dear to me. Yeah, it is ironic that my first game is against those guys.”
“I'm not sure I would call it ironic, but I do think it is funny,” Pacak said with a chuckle.
The 10th-year Greyhounds coach added, “Maybe the schedule maker had a sense of humor.”
Because both schools are in the same conference, Teets is actually pleased to get the meeting out of the way.
“It will be strange, no doubt,” he said. “But as a staff, as a team, we will plan for each game week by week. But if the Monessen game was week seven, for example, every week we would be planning that week seven would be in the back of my mind. So I'm glad to get it out of the way right off the bat. Then we can all go about our business and coaches and players.”
Teets isn't the only former Greyhound aide on the Trojans' sidelines. He brought along his brother, A.J. and Dave Wojtanowski, who also coached at Monessen.
A.J. Teets is California's offensive coordinator while Wojtanowski is the defensive coordinator.
Head coaching material
Teets was excited when he was named the head coach at California. Pacak was not surprised.
“When Bo came here, he came here having worked for some brilliant coaches elsewhere,” Pacak said. “He was an integral part of my staff, and along with Buddy Yartin, was one of the guys I leaned on the most the last few years.
“After I got to know him well here, I told him one day he would be a head coach.”
Pacak said that Teets has a knack for communicating with players and motivating them.
“If there is an ‘it' factor for a coach, Bo has it,” Pacak said.
Teets, for his part, said that while he was happy at Monessen, where he started as a receivers and linebackers coach and worked his way up to assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, he wanted to run his own program.
“I put in some applications at other schools the last three years and I was always open about it to Andy,” Teets said. “He knew my desire and he also knew how much I liked working with him and the kids we had at Monessen. But I did want my own program.
“Andy was always very helpful in that regard. Any time I applied, if there was some way he could find me an edge, he used it. Andy has never held me back. He always encouraged me. And I could have never gotten the job I have now if it weren't for what I learned under Andy and guys like (former Belle Vernon Area coach) Gary Dongilli.”
“Bo will do fine as a head coach,” Pacak said. “He is smart, motivated and organized. He pays attention to detail. He relates to kids well. He is ready for the challenge.”
Missing an ‘old friend'
Teets and Pacak formed a close bond after Teets came to Monessen's staff, and they still talk often.
Teets admitted that leaving Monessen was not an easy decision.
“It's a great program and with what they have coming back, I honestly see them as one of the teams to beat in the WPIAL. I was with these kids from the start and watched them work hard and grow,” he said. “That's not easy to walk away from.
“I remember when it became apparent that I was going to be hired at California, the first thing I did was get the seniors (at Monessen) together and tell them myself. I was very close to those guys and I didn't want them to read about it in the newspaper. I wanted to tell them myself. It was tough.”
“That's the kind of person Bo is,” Pacak said. “He is very personable with the kids. Our group of seniors was the first four-year group of players he would have been calling the plays for. So you can understand that he was particularly close to them.”
Teets joked that he is glad the first meeting of the two schools is at California Stadium because it would help him avoid a potentially embarrassing moment.
“If we were playing that first game at their place, I don't know how I would have reacted to having to walk across the field and go up the ramp into that lower dressing room,” Teets said with a grin. “I might have walked into their dressing room like I have so many times before.”
Neither coach claims he will have strange feelings as they stand across the field from each other and listen to The National Anthem before Friday's opening kickoff.
Teets said he hasn't even thought about that moment yet.
“To be honest, I think it will be just one of those things that I really won't appreciate until sometime in November or December after the season is over,” he claimed. “I'll probably be so zoned in on the game that I won't have time to dwell on it. I probably won't appreciate too many things from this first year until it is over and I have time to think about it.”
Pacak, meanwhile, said as the band plays, he will have a sense of pride.
“I'll be proud that one of my guys is a head coach, that he has achieved a goal that I was also able to achieve,” he said. “I think it is a compliment any time a member of your staff moves up. I will be proud of Bo.”
He then paused, smiled, and added, “But once the whistle blows, he has to understand that it's all business.”
“I wouldn't have it any other way,” Teets said.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.