Al Groh: 'Clearly, the advantage is on the Virginia side'
First-year Georgia Tech Defensive Coordinator Al Groh -- who served the past nine seasons as Virginia's head coach -- spoke with reporters in Atlanta on Tuesday in advance of Saturday's contest between the Yellow Jackets and Cavaliers. The game will mark the first time Groh has faced Virginia since he was fired last November at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign.
Groh recruited and coached many of the players currently on Virginia's roster, and several members of the current Cavaliers coaching staff -- including first-year Coach Mike London -- served under Groh during his tenure in Charlottesville. Linebackers Coach Vincent Brown and Special Teams Coordinator/Safeties Coach Anthony Poindexter also previously coached on Groh's staff at Virginia.
"We do what we do, especially since we are in the process of installing our system of a radical change right now which really throws our compass off," Groh said. "Clearly, the advantage is on the Virginia side. I say that because one, I taught our defense that we are doing here to the head coach and to the secondary coach. They have all my play books and all my cut-ups. Those two coaches and the linebackers coach have sat through endless hours with me discussing defense, making game plans, and analyzing our performance. There is no dilemma or no secret analyzing how Al Groh thinks."
Groh said it helped him to have a deep knowledge of many of the Virginia players Georgia Tech will face Saturday, but it would be more useful if his Yellow Jackets players held a similar grasp of Virginia's personnel.
As for his thoughts on facing those Virginia players who he spent so much time with in recent years, Groh said those relationships are where his true sentiments lie.
"I am not sentimental toward institutions," Groh said. "Whether they are NFL institutions or NCAA institutions, my sentiments, my emotions, my affections, and my appreciations is for individuals. As a result, most of my best friends in this world are people that I coached or coached with. Nothing changes that. There are a lot of players that are now playing for teams in St. Louis, Houston, New York, San Francisco and Atlanta and they are still among my best friends even though they are not on my team anymore. That will always be the case.
"There are many players on the current Virginia team that I look forward to having that relationship with in the future. I have much appreciated the players that have stayed in touch with me the past few months, so that is why I say I look forward to developing those relationships as they move on into their circumstances."
Groh said that, due to coaching's "all-encompassing" nature, there was no "biggest lesson" that he learned during his stint at Virginia.
"Just like with players, for every organization the head coach that comes into the program brings a certain skill level and that is why he is there in the first place," Groh said. "If other responsibilities deprive him of taking advantage of that skill level, the team is really being deprived of a resource that it really should be taking advantage of. There is no school you go to get a degree to be the head coach; it is on the job training. It is all observation. Everybody who does it for a period of time works out a way to not only get the best out of his team, but get the best out of himself."
There were many people close to Groh who suggested he spend some time away from coaching after he was fired at Virginia. They thought he should take a vacation or find something else to occupy his time. After all, he's had a long and fairly successful career, and he's certainly financially set for the rest of his life. But after a brief discussion with his wife, Ann, Groh elected to search for another coaching job.
"That is what I do; that is who I am," Groh said. "It lets me be the person that I am ... I very quickly said to Ann, ‘I appreciate that advice. I could probably retire from football right now, but I am just not ready to retire from me."
Regarding his emotions upon departing Virginia, Groh said he was content in how he handled the situation.
"I was able to say what I said, and be very comfortable with it because I only ever had one agenda, and that was do the best for my team that I could," Groh said. "I really did not have any other agenda. I did not do many speaking engagements. I did not do this or that. I am really just a football guy. So I gave a lot of time to that, and tried to give as much time to the players as they needed from whoever was their head coach at the moment, knowing how important that is to players.
"Were there some decisions I would change? Sure. I did that every week of every season, so a lot of that introspection, so if you wait until a certain point in your career and say you are going to look back at the last nine years of my career, then you probably repeated a lot of your errors. If you are willing to immediately thereafter step back and say what we could have done differently, then you make progress forward. Most of those things have been dealt with at previous times."
And finally, regarding the pro-style offense led by first-year Virginia Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor that the Georgia Tech defense will face Saturday, Groh said it strikes him as "very similar to the offense that we ran there for many years."
"In fact there are quite a few plays that probably have different names then, but the lines and the play book are going in the same direction," he continued. "It is apparent that that has been helpful in the transition, because a lot of the players and the quarterback in particular have a lot of background in making these reads, making these runs, and blocking these throws ...
"Secondly, the built-in knowledge the decision makers up there have on how we go about things. Those guys were with us for a long time, and I feel like we taught them a lot of things. I have never met the offensive coordinator so I do not know how he thinks."
| October 5, 2010; 3:38 PM ET
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