Giannone's arrival heralds new day at De La Salle

Al Willman
Special to The Detroit News
Mike Giannone takes over as Warren De La Salle football coach this season.

Warren — For many football players, coaches and fans, the first day of a football season is comparable to Christmas morning.

It’s especially so for Warren De La Salle first-year football coach Mike Giannone, who on Monday held the team’s first practice since coming over from Macomb Dakota in the offseason.

“It’s almost like my first day of practice ever,” he said. “Everything is new, the kids are new, it’s a new environment. I’m extremely excited about this. I’m going to bring a new passion the whole time.”

Giannone, who was 158-51 and had two state championships (2006 and 2007) in 18 seasons with Dakota, is actually the second coach to take the De La Salle job after longtime coach Paul Verska retired following De La Salle’s 25-21 loss to Detroit East English in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs at the end of October.

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant, who agreed to take the position vacated by Verska in January, decided after two weeks to stay at Chippewa Valley — opening the door for Giannone, who is hitting the ground running.

“Our expectations were high there (Dakota) and they’re going to be high here,” he said. “There’s really no difference in where you plan, it’s just how you plan.”

What makes things more unique for De La Salle is its new athletic director. Monday was the start of Michael Watson’s second week at De La Salle, after seven years as the AD for the Oxford School District.

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“It’s great,” Giannone said. “We look at each other and we ask each other ‘Well, what about this?’ I don’t know, and he doesn’t know either, so we find out together. Coming in with an athletic director that’s new and myself being new, it’s going to be a great opportunity.”

For Watson, starting a new athletic director job with a new football coach is nothing new. After Ferris State football coach Tony Annese left Muskegon for Grand Rapids Community College following the 2007 season, Watson and Matt Koziak spent their first season at Muskegon going 14-0, and beating De La Salle in the D2 finals.

“I think that it can be positive if you make it positive,” Watson said. “Coach Giannone and I have had several conversations so far, and you have to be attached at the hip with your football coach at any school, but especially one with a tradition like De La Salle’s. We see a lot of things the same way, and I’m sure it’s a relationship that will be very strong.”

De La Salle starts its season Aug. 26 at Lowell.

Al Willman is a freelance writer