Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Canada accepts LSU position
Matt Canada knew his world was changing.
Not that Pitt's former and hugely successful offensive coordinator needed or wanted change. Still, he welcomed it.
At the same time, all of it was so unbelievable and humbling.
A man with a deep, gruff voice who Canada never had met before Tuesday offered him more than $3 million to coordinate LSU's offense over the next three seasons. Speaking of that opportunity presented to him by LSU coach Ed Orgeron, Canada said, “You can't look away.”
But he had made a promise to Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi — “One of my great friends,” Canada said Wednesday — that he wouldn't make a move until he spoke to him, face to face.
“He wanted to go back and talk to his coach (Tuesday) night and do it like a man,” Orgeron said, apparently impressed by this act of loyalty from his newest employee.
So, before he signed an LSU contract, Canada flew from Baton Rouge, La., to Pittsburgh to meet with Narduzzi, who desperately wanted to keep him on his staff.
Loyal to the end, Canada didn't offer many details of that private conversation when he spoke to the Tribune-Review on Wednesday, but he did say it was “a lengthy discussion.”
“He made it hard. It's hard to leave your friends,” he said. “We just talked boss-to-employee, talked as friends. It's a hard decision to make when you leave great people and a great place.”
Asked how seriously Narduzzi and Pitt's administrators worked to keep him, Canada said, “It went above and beyond any expectations I would have. I'm more than humbled.”
Narduzzi predicted last month that Pitt officials would find a way to keep Canada, and athletic director Scott Barnes said previously that contract extension talks had started. But the lure of the SEC intervened again.
“The appeal for me is LSU,” Canada said. “This is the top league. This is football. This is the whole deal.”
In the end, Canada flew back to Baton Rouge where he had spent most of Tuesday and accepted LSU's generous offer. And that's how Pitt lost its second offensive coordinator in 12 months.
“I went home and talked to my fiancee, just talked about it, prayed about it, made sure I made the right decision for everybody (including daughter Tori and son Chris). One I thought was best for my family.”
Speaking of family, Canada said he has been engaged to Erin Buchanan since a few days after the Clemson victory last month, and the two will be married May 27.
So much change.
Canada, like Jim Chaney before him, spent less than one season at Pitt. But there's a twist this year: Canada, unlike Chaney, who left for Georgia immediately, will stick around for the Pinstripe Bowl against Northwestern on Dec. 28.
“I love our players,” he said. “I'm excited to finish our season and go get one more (victory).”
“It was important that Matt remain with our team through the bowl game, and he had no hesitation about that,” Narduzzi said in a statement. “He wants to send this team, and especially our seniors, out the right way.
“Our search for a new offensive coordinator will fully begin after the bowl. Our primary focus is on a successful completion to the 2016 season.”
Now, the first part of the offseason becomes difficult and crucial for Narduzzi, who must hire his third offensive coordinator after only two years at Pitt.
“When you hire great people and have success, your staff will always be in demand,” he said. “I'm confident we will find another outstanding person and professional to continue our momentum.”
Narduzzi wants an assistant with play-calling experience and perhaps one who has coached quarterbacks. Canada did that, too.
But Narduzzi also might want to include in his search coaches he has worked with and knows. Call it a sense of loyalty.
“He inherited that,” said Malone (Ohio) coach Fred Thomas, who coached with Narduzzi's father, Bill, at Youngstown State. “Loyalty was huge. It was everything. That's how we were brought up in this business.”
Narduzzi coached at four schools with New Orleans Saints offensive line coach Dan Roushar, who was Michigan State's offensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012 (coaching Le'Veon Bell and Kirk Cousins) when Narduzzi was there. Kent State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell directed Michigan State's offense for four years before Rousher and also was with Narduzzi at Miami (Ohio) and Cincinnati.
Two other names that could surface are Arkansas OC Dan Enos, who was on staffs with Narduzzi at Cincinnati and Michigan State; and Youngstown State OC Shane Montgomery, who coached Ben Roethlisberger at Miami where he spent one season with Narduzzi.