We caught up tonight with new BC High head football coach Joe Gaff, who was officially elevated from Defensive Coordinator and named successor to Jon Bartlett this afternoon. Over our half-hour conversation, Gaff discussed his new responsibilities, as well as the gameplan going forward and the talent coming up through the program's ranks.
Gaff, a member of the Everett Police Department by day, has served the last four years as Bartlett's defensive coordinator. The two teamed up for Division 1 Super Bowl titles in 2008 and 2011. Prior to that, he had a two-year stint as the head coach at Catholic Conference rival Malden Catholic.
His reaction to being named the new head coach: "I am just humbled. There are so many great people over there, so many great guys already there on the staff that have really pulled a lot of hard work. And to take over one of the elite programs in the state not just on the field, but off the field -- these are such quality kids outside of football -- it's a remarkable feeling."
On the element of continuity with this hire: "It's huge, and I think that's what they saw throughout this whole process. Jon has done such a wonderful job putting together such a great staff together, and we've had hardly any turnover in my four years here. I want to keep that going. It's not just about wins and losses, it's about getting kids into the right schools and playing the right way, that's really what BC High is all about. The whole message we try to preach over there is it's more than just wins and losses at BC High. It's about life."
What working under Bartlett has meant to him, and how those roles will change going forward: "I just think that it's just a friendship that we've bonded these last four short years. We're best friends, and we talk all of the time. Even in the offseason, we spend time together in the offseason. The friendship we've developed is amazing. It's a nice thing that he'll still be in the corner office. It's nice to know I have a friend there, and that the door's always going to be open."
Lessons learned from his last head coaching stint in the Catholic Conference, at Malden Catholic: "I think it's just that kids, no matter where you are, are great kids, and while some situations are different, all kids everywhere I've been at just want you to give them the best chance to win. I think that's going to be the philosophy at BC High. I'll still be coaching varsity swimming at Malden Catholic. I've got great swimmers -- we're not the best program in the world, but we started off with 15 kids and now we've got 43. And it's worked out, I'm going to be able stay in that position over there as well, so I'm ecstatic about that. It's hard going between two schools, but we're all in this business to teach kids right and wrong, and try to give them the right direction in life. I don't care what sport, what school, that will always be my mission."
His coaching style, and the philosophy going forward: "When Jon and I talked four years ago, that's what the whole idea was, our coaching styles were the same, and that's why it's worked so well. His idea of a pro-style offense with multiple formations is what I like. You have to adapt to different players, and we have to go with what best suits us every year, and for that I like the system Jon has put in. You don't want to be one-dimensional. Some years you'll have a great stable of running backs, other years its the wide receivers and quarterback, and I think it helps us to be a multiple-formation team.
"Defensively, we're going to stay very physical and very aggressive. The other thing is you really have to make sure the kids are very disciplined on the field, and these kids do such a good job with being disciplined off the field. They know why they're there -- academics, spiritual life and sports. We did mostly a four-man front, and I think we're going to stay with that. With the manpower we have, we're going to play with some things in the secondary and with the linebackers. We've got a great linebacker in Luke Catarius coming back, he is a heck of a player. We'll be mostly a four-man front though, but with the way teams can be pass-happy now, we'll have a little bit of three-man front. But we'll stay mostly in a four-man front, and adapt to what we need to."
On the coordinators situation: "I'll stay at defensive coordinator. Offense, I'm just getting the job today, we've got some quality guys on the staff, but it's something that I really haven't had a chance to talk about yet. We just have some great guys and friendships on the staff, and that's leads over to the kids' comfort zone. Offensive coordinator is going to be a big thing. Jon was head coach and offensive coordinator, and they averaged quite a few points in his career. It's going to be tough to match that."
On replacing the Class of 2012 talent, and the talent coming up: "We've got a good core of players coming back between Lincoln Collins, [Jack McDonald], Lucas [Catarius], Billy Breen. [Brendan] Craven hopefully will fill in for Bartley Regan at quarterback. It's going to be tough to replace Preston Cooper and Deontae [Ramey-Doe] at running back. Deontae did a tremendous job for Preston after he went down. We're going to have to find a tailback, but I think we've got a few guys that can fill the spot nicely.
"McDonald, he's got a bunch of offers. We haven't gotten into that yet though, we're meeting next week to set up a lot of that stuff. We've got Mark McGuire [senior tight end/defensive end] coming back, he's going to be great. Tim Johnson [senior defensive back], he had a great interception in the Super Bowl [last December], he's back. We do have some good kids coming up. Brandon Owens is another one coming back, we'll use him at outside linebacker some with his speed, and he'll play a little tailback for us too."
The most important thing to take care of between now and August: "Getting everyone comfortable with everything, try to get everyone on the same page. The offensive and defensive terminology might change a little, but as long as we continue to put in hard work in the weight room we'll be OK."
How he will handle college recruiting inquiries: "That's something me and Jon haven't yet worked out. Unfortunately I'm out of the building because I'm a police officer, but it's something we're working on. Jon will help me out with that. They already have a system over there, but we'll try to continue that. We've sent a player to Harvard four years in a row -- that's not too bad. Jon will be a big part, guidance will be a big part, and I think we'll all work together to get these kids into college."