By By Nick Pipitone
Athletic Director Jack Hayes announced this past Tuesday that former University of Delaware defensive coordinator Dave Cohen will be the new head coach of the Pride football team. Cohen, 39, will replace Joe Gardi, the 16-year coach who retired after the team's season finale Nov. 19.
"When Jack [Hayes] asked me for the guidelines for a new coach I said it's very simple," President Stuart Rabinowitz said at the press conference. "First, a football coach who will enhance the academic experience of our student athletes. I want a football coach who will enhance more enthusiasm and excitement for the football team."
"Jack came to me and said David Cohen is the guy who can do everything you want. So I think it is a very exciting day for Pride football."
Cohen, a graduate of C.W. Post, is in his first head coaching position. He began his coaching career at Albany and spent three seasons a defensive coordinator at Fordham.
The Long Island native brings a wealth of defensive knowledge to the Pride. As Delaware's defensive coordinator from 2002-2005, Cohen headed a strong defensive Blue Hen team that captured the I-AA championship in 2003. During that season, the Blue Hens posted a record of 15-1 and held all four playoff opponents to under 10 points.
In 2004, Cohen was named NCAA I-AA Defensive Coordinator of the Year after UD finished in the nation's top 25 in three categories and advanced to the playoff quarterfinals.
"Every time we had a question, every time there was a situation put in front of him, Dave Cohen had an answer on what we want for the Pride," Hayes said, eluding to the interviewing process. "Everyone will get an opportunity to see those things come out in his tenure with the Pride."
The young and excitable Cohen met with Pride players for the first time Tuesday afternoon and with coaches on Wednesday. He said final staff decisions will be made sometime before the holidays.
The players' reaction, while excited about Cohen, also expressed lament about the possible change in staff. QB Anton Clarkson said that he was excited for the chance to play for a new coach and get a clean slate and also relieved that the process was finally over.
"[Coaching changes] come with the territory and it's not really going to matter what I say," Clarkson said. "All I can do is respect the fact that he's going to make his choices and he's the head guy now."
LB Gian Villante, however, said he was sure coaching changes would be made and that he would miss the former staff.
"It's tough [starting over], but I'm decent at learning new stuff. Defense isn't hard, you just have to run around and hit guys, so hopefully [Cohen] will let me do that. That's all I ask for," Villante said.
Cohen thinks the Pride is very close to becoming a prominent team in the Atlantic 10 and would like to build on what Gardi has developed over the past 16 seasons. That includes molding the offense to become more adept to the running game and "winning as a group," both in academics and on the field.
Even though he is known for his defensive prowess, Cohen says he will not have any control over the defense, instead focusing more on his head coaching duties. He is also excited to recruit in the Long Island area, where he did with Delaware and his time spent at Fordham and Albany.