Monday, February 20, 2012

Assistant football coach Ianello relishes return to roots


In coming to coach football at Kansas University, Rob Ianello is returning to what he’s used to and doing it with a different eye.

From 1987 through 2009, Ianello, 46, served as an assistant coach at five schools, including Notre Dame from 2005-09, when he worked under current KU coach Charlie Weis in South Bend, Ind.

During his 20-plus years as an assistant, Ianello was an assistant recruiting coordinator at Alabama, a recruiting coordinator and tight-ends coach at Wisconsin and a wide-receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Arizona and Notre Dame.

He has inherited similar roles at KU, serving as Weis’ recruiting coordinator and wide-receivers coach, but he will approach them with a new mind-set — the return to his roots comes on the heels of a two-year run as the head coach at Akron.

“I think the experiences I had as a head coach allow me to understand the chair the coach sits in and the decisions he has to make every day — better than I ever understood it before,” Ianello said.

Asked if assistant coaches like him spend much of their career thinking they understand what goes into being a head coach, Ianello was honest.

“You do,” he said. “But as an assistant coach, you are inches from that chair but still miles away.”

Ianello was fired at Akron after going 2-22 in two seasons, including a 1-15 mark in conference play. Despite the rough couple of years — Ianello said he believed he was making progress, it just was not showing up in wins — Ianello emerged from the low-profile school in Ohio more prepared than ever to battle with the big boys again. But that feeling did not surface immediately.

“There was a part of me that thought I wasn’t gonna coach next year,” he said. “I was gonna take a year off.”

Enter Weis, an old friend and former colleague who reached out at just the right time. Less than two weeks after being fired by Akron, Ianello received a call from Weis about the opportunity at Kansas. The two talked. Ianello offered his thoughts and functioned as a sounding board for Weis as he kicked around the idea of taking over at Kansas. Right away, Ianello noticed the similarities to his situation at Akron.

“I went into a very tough situation from a discipline and accountability and academic standpoint,” Ianello said of taking over at Akron. “And it took me quite a bit of time to get that under control before I could address the roster and all those things.”

With academics, accountability and discipline serving as the primary obstacles facing Weis’ rebuilding project at Kansas, Ianello jumped off the page as the perfect fit. Similarly, a chance to rejoin Weis and take another stab at what many considered to be a failed attempt at Notre Dame excited Ianello.

“Coming back to work on a staff where I had familiarity with the head coach and I knew him and trusted him, it was too good to pass up,” Ianello said.

With the spark reignited and the perfect opportunity to get back to coaching at his feet, Ianello started his research. He always had heard great things about living in Lawrence and knew a handful of people who had worked at Kansas throughout the years. One of them, former KU offensive coordinator Ed Warinner, just happened to be a good friend.

“I had a chance to talk to Eddie over the years, and I knew what they’d done out here,” Ianello said. “When I got involved with this opportunity, I called him and said, ‘Tell me about this, tell me about that.’”

Although Warinner’s role in Lawrence was different than the one Ianello will have, Ianello seems to be following in Warinner’s footsteps in at least one major way — both came to Kansas as part of a coaching staff that faced a giant rebuilding process. Under former KU boss Mark Mangino, Warinner helped lead the Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl championship and some of the most prolific offensive seasons in school history. Whether the same fate awaits Ianello remains to be seen, but the bounce has already returned to the longtime assistant coach’s step.

“I love coaching,” Ianello said. “I love the interaction with the players. That’s the thing, as the head coach, that you don’t get as much. You don’t get into your (meeting) room with your players, and you don’t get the opportunity to kind of bond with them. So I’m really looking forward to getting back to that. That was always fun for me, and it’s gonna be fun for me again.”


gardenjay 8 years, 4 months ago

Thank you for a football article in the midst of a rebuilding year at KU basketball.

april28 8 years, 4 months ago

Sometimes, people just don't get the joke.

texashawk10 8 years, 4 months ago

I see one person who doesn't get the joke.

KU_Alumn_2000 8 years, 4 months ago

Yeah you're right because you wouldn't believe how many people...NOT JOKINGLY...have said this throughout the season.

When you have 4 juniors and a senior who have been in the system for multiple seasons...I wouldn't consider it a rebuilding year. Especially with the physical talent these five guys have.

Seems like to year will be the rebuilding year. With several freshmen getting playing time...that would be rebuilding.

Sorry I didn't get your little inside joke.

KU_Alumn_2000 8 years, 4 months ago

It's not a rebuilding year for our basketball team. Our starting five is pretty damn good.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 4 months ago

After losing 4 of 5 starters and 3 (?) other players, if KU ever has a rebuilding year, this is it. The quality of the current team is just testament to the tradition that has been built into the program by everyone from fans to former players to past and presnt coaches, as well as the incredible development job by the current staff.

And yes it is good to have a football article in the midst of a rebuilding year at KU, though that is probably more appropriate for the FB program than the BB team.

Brandon Pope 8 years, 4 months ago

The current situation is not a rebuilding year in the slightest. If anything it is a down year, but I am not sure you can call it that since the team is 5th in the nation, has but two loses in the league and it contending for their 8th straight title and a #1 seed in the NCAAs. They are certainly not a prolific has teams here have been, but they are getting it done regardless.

A rebuilding year implies that we have a bunch of guys on the roster who are playing but not really ready for primetime. That is certainly not the case. We start 4 juniors and a senior. And the only freshman with a real chance to contribute in the future hardly plays (Tharpe).

With the kind of talent we have coming in over the next two years and a great group of seniors returning for next year, the future is as bright as ever.

Steve Reigle 8 years, 4 months ago

A "rebuilding year" means simply that there is little carryover in the form of players who played serious minutes the prior year. This is a rebuilding year but it has not had the failures most often associated with rebuilding. That is a credit to the coaching staff and to the young men who have worked so hard to succeed.

dylans 8 years, 4 months ago

This has been an awesome rebuilding year! Especially since KU was unable to reload this year with young studs. 4 of 5 starters were unproven coming into the year. I had high hopes for Robinson, but the team has exceeded my expectations.

Bville Hawk 8 years, 4 months ago

I knew that ending a sentence with a preposition was a no-no, but have never heard it being a problem at the start of a sentence. His sentence reads fine, the meaning is clear. I think you need to rescind your 1 point deduction.

Gary McCullough 8 years, 4 months ago

I have to read too many papers from students who can not write a proper sentence. The first sentence in the article is in the passive voice and lacks the authority you want in a news article. Which sounds better?

In coming to coach football at Kansas University, Rob Ianello is returning to what he’s used to and doing it with a different eye.


Rob Ianello is returning to what he's used to in coming to coach football at Kansas University, and doing it with a different eye.

gardenjay 8 years, 4 months ago

I think the first one sounds better.

Also, I think a sports site is a perfect place to access those students who cannot write a proper sentence.

This talk of prepositions reminds me of the freshman at Harvard who is playing frisbee on campus, and along comes a professor, pipe in mouth, strolling along in deep contemplation. "Hey, can you tell me where the library is at" yells the freshman. The professor stops and announces "Young man, at Harvard we never end our sentences in a preposition", then turns up his nose and strides away. This angered the freshman, who then called after him "So can you tell me where the library is at 'a$$(#&(#$&'"

Most english profs should know that joke, but it's worth regurgitating...

Bville Hawk 8 years, 4 months ago

It also reminds me of one of the great lines from "Cheers" when Diane says to Sam after he came on to her: "Sam, you just ended that proposition with a preposition!"

John Randall 8 years, 4 months ago

Really, now, "blowhardiness" would be a more appropriate usage, at least in the context of a satirical comment.

Gregor Southard 8 years, 4 months ago

and me. And a lot of alumni. And a lot of announcers.

Gregor Southard 8 years, 4 months ago

and me. And a lot of alumni. And a lot of announcers.

Gregor Southard 8 years, 4 months ago

and me. And a lot of alumni. And a lot of announcers.

kellerman411 8 years, 4 months ago

< insert something about KU basketball or Matt Tait's sentence structure >

W Keith Swinehart II 8 years, 4 months ago

Matt, I am sure most of us enjoy reading the off-season football articles. It should be remembered that football is in full-season for Weis, Ianello, Grunhard, all other coaching staff and football players and families. I hope they can feel the interest level developing through your articles. Also, the more I know about our football team and its progression through the season the more excited I become. So, keep the football stuff coming.

It would be interesting to know about how the staff performs his specialized job, and the interrelationships that are developed with other coaching staff members and the head coach. One approach might be, "A Day in the Life of the (selected) Coach."

I'm also glad to hear mention about focused attention on discipline, accountability and academics. How do the coaches work those messages in to the players, and how do they monitor?

Bville Hawk 8 years, 4 months ago

Wow, you need to get back on your hi fiber diet.

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 4 months ago

Changing the subject, I just can't get over Mizzu's leaving the Big12. Need someone more talented to put it to music. I have just the song.

Mike Hart 8 years, 4 months ago

Perhaps it IS time you got over it? That's dumb...

Mike Hart 8 years, 4 months ago

In honor of Mizzou leaving Big 12.. how about you leave this message board... and take your song with ya.

John Randall 8 years, 4 months ago

Not rude to write "That's dumb..." ? We can be grateful for your humility in not bringing erudition into the discussion.

Steve Brown 8 years, 4 months ago

Coach, work them hard & smart.. We are finished watching our boys winded in the 3rd quarter and then laying down in the 4th.

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