Conversation with Coach – Stan Dakosty, Marian Catholic @CoachOG @MarianColtsFB @Coach_Dakosty
Tagged under: Coaches Corner, District 11, News
Phil Myers | October 7, 2021
The 1990 State Champs
There is nothing like Friday night high school football in coal country. The community excitement, the huge crowd nearly filling the stadium, the passion of the players playing in front of so many people, the anxious anticipation of coaches hoping for a good showing of their squad, and so on. One of those schools, Marian Catholic, has a proud tradition that can be traced back about 44 years ago when a 22-year-old was hired to take over a program that appeared to be on the rise. Marian Catholic High School took a chance on the young man and it paid off in priceless dividends. Marian was blessed to have a man like Coach Stan Dakosty at the helm of their football program. He gave his heart and soul for 40 years in building the program at Marian before retiring after the 2016 season. His record at retirement speaks for itself, 310-152-3 with seven D-11 titles, six conference crowns, and a state championship in 1990.
He became a legendary coach in the coal region. A prime example is the fact that well over two dozen coaches have at one time or another coached under his guidance. He was named the AP Small School Coach of the Year in 1990 and coached the 1992 Big 33 team to a resounding victory over Maryland.
Dakosty Jr brought the Colgate team to Marian Catholic for a walk through on their way to Georgetown
Then, after his departure and for no particular reason the program came upon hard times to where in 2019 Marian had to forfeit their last 2 games because of low numbers. That episode spurred Dakosty to action. He had a long talk with his son who is the coach at Colgate and decided to come back for the 2020 season. Although he increased the numbers substantially, the pandemic played havoc with the season, as did the inexperience of his team which included players who had not played since midgets if ever at all. “It was quite an experience. I look back at it and see how the kids hung in there. We expect 40 plus kids out this year with only five seniors and a really nice sophomore and freshman class. The culture is positive,” he related to me.
My informative interview with Coach Dakosty was conducted in late July and lasted over 80 minutes but it seemed like only 15. It was a very pleasant interview and was extremely exemplary.
PM: “For those who don’t know, where exactly is Marian Catholic located?”
SD: “Marian Catholic is in Tamaqua which is between Wilkes-Barre and Allentown, right below Hazleton. It was a great atmosphere on Friday night when we were at our peak. We’re trying to get to that now.” Then he invited me to a game sometime, which I will take him up on either this year or next.
PM: “How did you build the winning tradition at Marian Catholic and how do you plan to get back to where you were?”
SD: “I became head coach when I was 22 years old. I came in for former coach Chuck Rocconi. I had been an assistant for a couple of years and had the offensive line job. Our first game was at the Silver Bowl (Mt. Carmel) versus Jack Diminick and the place was packed. I felt like we were ready to go, but we got hammered. I coached hungry from that point on. I didn’t anticipate anything. I didn’t assume anything. We won the following week against Bristol. I think the turning point for the whole program came when we upset Hazleton in a game where we were a big underdog. After that, things kind of snowballed. I say this with complete confidence that if we would have had state championships at that point in time when we were going, I think that we would have at least 4 or 5. We won something like 27 or 28 games in a row. We had a good run. Winning became a habit. We learned how to win. You learn how to work. Then it became no team wanted to let down what became a winning tradition.”
“We close every practice with ‘three for the Colts,’ where we honor the Colts who played before us, the Colts playing with us, and the Colts who are going to play in the future. It’s so important for the kids to know what we’re doing is bigger than us. There’s a lot of people who believe in the program, a lot of people wanting to see the program succeed again and we owe it to them to give our best effort. We stress that all the time. I don’t coach a football team I coach a football program!”
He proceeded to talk about a former trainer, who is the head of the training program at Temple University, that volunteered her time to conduct the current team’s physicals as an example of how former students still contribute in some manner to the program. He told me how former players will come in and talk to the current players. “I have great assistant coaches too. Most have played for me and some have come around for the second time. So, they know the deal,” he stated.
SD: “Well, I usually say winning season, playoffs, and success in the playoffs. Are we good enough to win the district championship? Then let’s do it. Are we good enough to make noise at the state level? Then let’s do it. Another thing I think most high school teams have as an attitude is to practice on Thanksgiving. If you’re practicing on Thanksgiving that means you’re doing something pretty good (regarding the state playoffs).”
PM: “What’s the most important concept you and your coaching staff try to teach your players?”
SD: “There’s two things. The biggest thing I stress to my kids, is don’t let the game use you, you use the game. I’ve seen what this game has done for our kids in the coal region. The doors it’s opened. We have a former player who is vice president at MIT, we have an admiral in the Navy. So, don’t think it can’t be done, cause I’ve seen it done.”
“From general coaching philosophy, it’s player development. We got to fit our system to our players, our players to our system. That’s the biggest thing I think we’ve done pretty well. We want to be sound fundamentally. We don’t bring attention to ourselves on the field. If we score, we score. We let our play talk for itself. We stress that. One of the things key to me taking this job again was I asked to be the cafeteria moderator. I want to see every one of my players every day. The purpose was I want to see my players and say ‘hello.’ The only place I could do that was in the cafeteria. It’s fun since I’m not teaching anymore. That’s really important to me for me to be involved in what they’re doing.”
“We have an academic tutor that is taken care of by a booster club. It’s a tutor session, not a study hall. Teachers and NHS kids work with my players if they want. I tell them never forget who you are and what you represent. I’m not afraid to tell my players I love them. There’s times I don’t like them and I’m sure they don’t like me, but they got to know I’ve got their back.”
PM: “What do you find is the toughest thing about coaching?”
SD: “I think the expectations that sometimes are unrealistic of people that aren’t directly involved in the program. You know what I’m saying? If you play to the best of your ability, that’s super. I want football players, not people who play football.”
Coach Dakosty then emphasizes the strategy of putting players where they best can help Marian Catholic win. That the players should learn another position in case someone gets hurt. He said he would hate to look down the sidelines and see two of his best players next to him when they could be on the field playing another position. He says that is difficult to make them aware of that.
“We take a trip to a D-1 school every year. We meet with coaches and the head coach talks to us. We watch highlight film, get to see a practice, and go to their facilities. It’s been disappointing we couldn’t do it the past two years.”
PM: “You’ve coached for over 40 years. How has coaching changed over the years?”
SD: “I think the media stuff, the films, the HUDLs. It’s all at the push of a button. I have a coach who handles the media stuff for me. I’m a dinosaur. That’s one of the biggest changes., the instant ability to see something. The game itself is a lot more wide open. A lot of spread offense throwing the ball. My first team, we were 12-1 and we had the all-time leading rusher in the state at the time. He set the state record and had it 7 or 8 years. His name is Mike Tracy. That whole season we threw, I think, 27 passes. Now sometimes we throw 18 times a game.”
PM: “Is there anything you’d like to see changed in the high school game?”
SD: “That’s a great question. I like what we’ve done with the head. Players’ safety is first, number one.” He thinks for a moment and says, “I really can’t see anything I’d change. They have overtime now, and not ties. I think that is good. People complain about officials, but you know what, they are human beings.”
After some more thought he pondered out loud, “Our kids don’t play AAU, we got to guarantee the kids play ten games. They have ten chances to get on film, with playoffs maybe 11 or 12. That’s all they get. The cheerleaders and the band that’s all they get if that. If there’s one thing that brings the community together it’s football pure and simple.”
Dakosty went on to say that he doesn’t have anything against 6 classes, but he says it has allowed teams with losing records get into the playoffs. He says he is old-fashioned, plus with his team goals of attaining a winning record then making the playoffs, he just feels teams with losing records should not be in the playoffs. We discussed some things unique to Pennsylvania football that even with 4 classes allowed teams with losing records to enter the playoffs. One of the problems that plagues Pennsylvania is having districts instead of regions, but that is another story.
PM: “Are you a proponent of spring football in Pennsylvania?”
SD: “I am definitely a proponent of it. The only problem I see with it would be the timing especially for small schools. For those small schools, chances are the good athletes are running track or playing baseball. To have a three or a four-day period even after Memorial Day after the state track meet and have a legitimate spring practice… If you’re a recruiter down south you can see live action in the spring. PA still plays good football, but I’m not sure we are recognized that way anymore.” (In a recent 5-year study of blue-chip athletes PA was tied for 12th. The only state in the top 10 that did not have spring football was Ohio.)
“It’s another way of improving the skill set and is more exposure to the athletes. It would be great. We could do it after spring sports. Again, we don’t have an AAU in football. Now 7 on 7 kids do in a way, but linemen don’t. Anything we can do to help sell the game or develop the game I think is important.”
PM: What is the most rewarding thing about coaching?”
SD: “I’ll tell you what it is for me. This may sound corny. But hearing from my players and what they’re doing when they come back. The common thread is the love of the program and the love of our school. You know, Marian Catholic is a great school, that’s why I’m still there. There is so many great people. More importantly, they (former players) are good people, they’re good parents. Do we have kids in trouble at times? Yeah, we have, we have. But, for the most part they’re good people. That’s what matters.”
“The other rewarding thing is to see young players develop. I’ve had people who were jayvee players as sophomores and became all-county kids as seniors. I think what you learn as a young coach as you get older is that you don’t count anybody out.”
PM: “What is the biggest thrill you’ve gotten out of coaching so far?
SD: “I guess the easiest answer is the state championship. We’ve had so many other great teams that, like I said, if there had been a state championship, they probably would’ve been there or in the picture. I’m always very careful about rating teams because our guys are very conscious about that. Like ‘coach didn’t mention us.’ Another great moment for us was the 27 or 28 game win streak.”
“Then there were some games you think about. We were going for the state playoffs and were playing Pottsville, the place is packed and its 4th down. We call a timeout and actually change the play I called. We hit something and went down to the one-yard line. We score and win the game. We played a game against PV (Panther Valley) and I had a college coach tell me it was one of the best atmospheres he ever saw in a high school football game. We must have had 5,000 people there. They were standing 8 or 9 yards around and parking 3 to 4 miles away.”
“I could probably pick out 5 or 6 other games where we beat high level opponents that were right up there too. One other thing is having a back-up player get in a game and really be a factor. I can think of a game where we put a kid at defensive end and he played like he was all-state. He helped us win a big game. To this day when I see him, we talk about that game. He was ready when his time came. That’s another thing I tell the kids, be ready. Coaching my son has to be a highpoint. He had a great career for us. He went on to play at Colgate. It was kind of neat.”
PM: “What position did your son play?”
SD: “He played quarterback. He was a good athlete. He finished third or fourth in the state in the 400 meters in track. He played basketball too.”
PM: “How do you account for your success in coaching over the years?”
SD: “Number one, great assistant coaches. Some of my coaches have been with me longer than my wife.” (We both had a hearty laugh.) “Then, the kids. We practice hard. It takes a special person to play in our program and that’s the point we’re getting back to now. We have the culture now where the guys we have are the guys we want. They are working hard to get better. I’ve had two great principals in my first forty-something years. You can’t underestimate how important that is to have a leader that supports you and sets the example for you.”
PM: “What do you want your legacy to be?”
SD: “We coach a program, we coach people. I take it very seriously that I coach someone’s son. We can be tough, but I never forget I’m coaching someone’s son. The other thing is our teams are always prepared and win or lose we play whistle to whistle. We come after you and we aren’t going to back down.”
We then delve into some personal background and family. Coach Dakosty graduated in 1970 from Shenandoah Valley High School, another coal region school, where he played football and ran some track. In Dakosty’s words, “I was a very average football player, but played for a great coach, Geno Poli, who inspired me to get into coaching.” Dakosty related how he would come home from college on weekends and go visit Poli and they would mostly talk football. “Poli was actually on my staff when we won the state championship in 1990,” he said. After graduating high school, Dakosty went to Lycoming College and pursued a teaching degree. He played football there a year and then got interested in coaching.
“I had two great parents, Stan and Jackie, who supported me. They didn’t miss one of my games in high school. I came from a good hard working coal region family. One grandfather was a coal miner. My dad never missed a day of work in forty years. I have four brothers and sisters.”
“I basically got married to the love of my life. We met at a football game. Her name is Mary. She’s the boss of the family, the head coach. She has been incredible over the years. I have a daughter who lives in New Jersey and teaches in Philadelphia. Kathleen knows as much football as me and my son. She really knows her stuff. My son, Stan, is head coach at Colgate up in New York. I have three grandkids too. It pulls at me, I got to be honest with you.”
PM: Can you see yourself coaching for a few more years?”
SD: “I can. I really can. Obviously, health plays a role. I’m still pretty healthy.”
PM: “What do you do with your spare time?”
SD: “I am very much interested in current events and history. I was a history teacher. I probably watch as much film on history as I do football. Also, I’m domestically challenged. If my kids or wife sees me with a tool, they take it off me right away. I like family time too.” Then we talked about the Civil War and different battlefields we’ve visited for a few minutes.
PM: “What does Coach Dakosty’s favorite meal consist of?”
SD: “Italian. Homemade meatballs. I’m a meatball snob. I’m also a chicken noodle soup snob. I’ll go to restaurants and complain if they don’t have chicken noodle soup. Yeah, it’s chicken noodle soup and spaghetti and meatballs.”
PM: “How about a favorite dessert?”
SD: “Oh boy. Cherry Pie.”
PM: “Do you have any favorite movies?”
SD: “I’ve probably watched ‘Braveheart’ about 25 times. Typically, a military or a sports movie I enjoy, but Braveheart would be number one.”
PM: “Do you have a favorite TV show or something you like to watch like sports?”
SD: “Sports or news. I watch news on different channels to get different viewpoints and sports when I can, especially college and pro football.”
PM: “Is there another coach, alive or nor, that you’d love to pick his brain?”
SD: “I’ll tell you what, I think it would be Vince Lombardi. I’ve read quite a few books about him. I don’t know how he’d fit in today, but I think he’d be much needed in a lot of ways. He earned the respect of a room full of men and that’s a tough thing to do. He was genuine. Coach Paterno, I had a lot of respect for him. I’ll say that. WE weren’t friends or anything, but I spoke with him many times. He did a great job up there. He was a wise man. I can only tell you what I know. What I know is what I know. I was always a great admirer of Dick Vermeil too. But number one is Vince Lombardi.”
PM: “What’s one thing people may not know about you?”
SD: “I have a pretty good sense of humor. That’s the thing that most surprises people when they get to know me a little bit.”
We conversed for a few more minutes and he complimented PFN and myself saying, “Keep doing what you are doing. Football is a great game, played by great people, and covered by great people.”
Coach Dakosty is a very positive person which will rub off in building the program back. “It’s going to happen, hopefully the sooner the better. When it does, it will be really neat,” he states and continued, “We won one football game last year, but the season was a winning season because we built a football team and that was in doubt for a while. We are building for success, developing our kids, and we’re certainly bigger and faster now. We’re much more aware of the game and how it’s played. We’ll still have to fight to win.”
He added, “I enjoy the workouts, I enjoy the passing scrims, it’s been fun and I’m looking forward to the season. I really am. It’s been kind of neat to see the transformation.”
He also told me about a player who had not seen his teammate for 10 years and took him to his treatment program when asked. Things have worked out now, and Dakosty feels good because the type of program he installed builds that trust among teammates. “They still have each other’s back. That really struck me,” he added.
The man is a legend, there is no doubt about that. We could have talked for hours. The Marian Catholic Colts will be bucking to get back to the heights they once had and there is no one better to try to accomplish that feat than Mr. Dakosty. After all, he is the one that got them there before. Friday night lights at Stan Dakosty Field at Men of Marian Stadium. Now that sounds like something that shouldn’t be passed up if you live in the area. Wouldn’t it be nice if Coach Dakosty looked up into the stands one of these Friday nights in the next year or two and saw a couple thousand or more people loudly urging his team on?
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