The name on the door next to his new office — a room now occupied by the new defensive coordinator — still bears his name. Inside the corner office, the one that seems like the biggest space in the building, the words “Congrats Coach” are still fresh on the white board across from his desk.
For the first time in over two decades, that office is filled by someone other than Al Bagnoli. But Ray Priore is settling in without any problems.
“My first day in, I went into my old office because that’s where I’d gone for so long,” Priore said. “It’s been a little strange with the new surroundings, but the transition is going well.”
Okay , other than that minor hiccup, the beginning of Priore’s tenure since the “in waiting” aspect of his title has been removed has been both successful and action packed.
Although Priore says much of what he has worked on since officially assuming the position on Dec. 1 is new, he prepared for the transition from defensive coordinator to head coach following the announcement of Bagnoli’s retirement last spring.
“What I tried to do at the end of last spring and into the summer — during the down months — was things like learning about the budget, fundraising and other administrative matters,” Priore said. “I did not want that to become a focus when the season started because I had a role to fulfill.”
While Priore has spent a significant amount of time on the road meeting with recruits since the end of the 2014 season, Bagnoli’s longtime assistant has also focused on accumulating information and opinions from his players.
In meeting with every player from last year’s roster, Priore says he sought to take in as much information as possible in order to figure out which minor aspects of the program need to be altered.
“It was a pretty open thing,” Priore said of his player meetings, highlighting the discussions he had with the squad’s outgoing seniors. “Their feedback spanned everything from how we practice to mentoring younger kids and other things we can do moving forward.”
Undoubtedly, following a second consecutive subpar season, one in which the Quakers managed only two wins against the worst teams the Ivy League had to offer, the program’s supporters have clamored for change. But Priore doesn’t think every takeaway from 2014 is negative.
“The one thing that is true about us is that we got better as the season went on,” Priore said. “Although that may not have shown on the scoreboard, I think we saw the kids’ effort and mindset changing and improving over the course of the year.”
Despite the marked improvement the Red and Blue demonstrated as the season developed, it’s obvious that Penn will need to make some changes moving forward.
“You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse,” Priore said. “We can’t sit back and think ‘well we’ve won before, we’re alright’ because we want to win again and we need to figure out what we can do to make that a reality.”
As Penn floundered in the secondary last year, allowing long touchdowns in several games, Priore heard his fair share of criticism for the Quakers’ defensive output. But the program’s new boss has not let those comments affect his mindset as he prepares to guide the Red and Blue into a new era.
“I think as a coach, you have to self-examine and see what went right and what went wrong last season,” Priore said. “We were not at our highest level defensively and there’s no excuse, we should have done better.”
As he continues to settle into his new office, Priore’s work environment should not be terribly different than years past. With Bagnoli assuming an administrative role in Penn Athletics, Priore knows he has an invaluable aid at his disposal.
“I look at someone who has been in the profession as long as he has as a great resource for me,” Priore said. “He doesn’t expect me to be him and to guide the program the way he did.
“There is going to be change but I’ll be picking his brain on things along the way.”Comments powered by Disqus
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