When Pat Narduzzi came to Pitt and the ACC before the 2014 season, he didn’t know Dabo Swinney.
Of course, he knew of Swinney, who had already won an ACC title at Clemson. But the two men had never met or had any interaction.
With the teams slated to play one another just once every seven years in the ACC’s lone crossover game, there wasn’t bound to be a lot of meeting between the two coaches.
But they’ve certainly been able to get an impression of one other. Both Narduzzi and Swinney were asked about one another during a conference call this week in advance of Saturday’s ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Tuesday, Swinney was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year, while Narduzzi came in third place in the voting. Each man had plenty of positive things to say about their championship counterpart.
Narduzzi, on Swinney: “Obviously, Dabo has done an incredible job. He’s not only a football coach, but he’s a businessman. He’s got the tools he needs down there, the facilities, their slides, movie theater outside, backyard barbecues they have. They’ve got a unique place down south. They’re able to attract a lot of talent.
“They’ve done a great job winning football games which has helped the consistency of bringing more talent there. They got a ton of tradition. Like I said, Dabo really has done that. He has some Alabama ties. He’s doing a little bit of the Saban way. He’s building another powerhouse there in the Atlantic Division of the ACC.
“He’s done an unbelievable job. As coaches, whether they were in our division or not, we don’t spend a whole lot of time as coaches together. The times you do are at ACC Media Days where you spend time with them.
“Dabo has done an incredible job. I think he’s a great guy. I’d like to be like Dabo someday. He has a great personality. He’s a player’s coach. I just think he does everything the right way. I got the utmost respect for Dabo and the job he’s done there. Besides all that, I think he’s a great person.”
Swinney, on Narduzzi: “I did not know Pat. Obviously knew about him in the industry, so forth. I believe he was with Mark [D’Antonio] at Michigan State. They were a heck of a tandem, for sure.
“I didn’t know him, but have gotten to know him since he’s come into the league. I just think he’s a great fit for their program. When I think of Pittsburgh, I think of toughness, I think of grit. I think epitomizes those two things. He’s a tough, hard-nosed football coach. He’s passionate. He loves the players. He has a defensive background. Their team is kind of built that way.”
“I think he has an identity that he believes in. His team takes on that identity. But a great guy, a really, really good guy. Like I said, I’ve spent a lot of time with him over the last few years obviously in meetings. Then also he’s one of the guys that goes on the Nike trip, get to spend some time we and his wife there, too. Got a lot of respect for Pat, who he is as a person as well as a great coach.”