Back home in In­di­ana, Terps in­terim coach sees visit as just an­other game

The Capital - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

COL­LEGE PARK – Mary­land in­terim coach and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt Canada does not seem to be the nostal­gic type, much more wrapped up in the present than the past. Nor does he seem con­sumed with his un­cer­tain fu­ture.

It has served him well through­out his coach­ing ca­reer, in par­tic­u­lar this sea­son as he has helped the Terps nav­i­gate through more tragedy than tri­umph, more tur­moil in a mat­ter of three months than many teams go through in a decade.

What some might think is a home­com­ing at In­di­ana —filled with mem­o­ries about the roots of how the 46-year-old Canada de­cided to spend his adult life — is just an­other game, he said Tues­day.

Still, it is a very big game to­day for Mary­land, a team that finds it­self one vic­tory shy of bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity, and for Canada, who has put him­self in po­si­tion for his first full-time head coach­ing job — ei­ther with the Terps or at an­other school.

Big Ten stu­dio an­a­lyst Gerry Di­Nardo, who hired Canada as his quar­ter­backs coach at In­di­ana for what turned out to be Di­Nardo’s last sea­son of coach­ing in 2004, said that Canada’s un­likely au­di­tion at Mary­land has helped his rep­u­ta­tion.

“I don’t think there’s any ques­tion that he’s cer­tainly a bet­ter head coach­ing can­di­date now than he was three or four months ago, no doubt,” Di­Nardo said Fri­day. “It’s in­valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence. … Matt has made mis­takes he won’t re­peat, hope­fully. He’s done good things he will re­peat.

“The first time you be­come a head coach, you lay down in bed and you’re just over­whelmed that ev­ery­body is look­ing at you for lead­er­ship — peo­ple that are younger than you, peo­ple that are older than you. And they need lead­er­ship. If some­one is not look­ing at him dif­fer­ently, they just don’t know the game.”

For his part, Canada has down­played his home­com­ing to his alma mater, where he started his coach­ing ca­reer as a stu­dent as­sis­tant, con­tin­ued as a grad­u­ate as­sis­tant and then spent seven years — the long­est stint of his ca­reer — work­ing for three dif­fer­ent head coaches.

“Well it’s not about me go­ing back there. To that part, there’s no part to it,” Canada said Tues­day. “One thing, I didn’t play. I was a stu­dent coach. I never played, just to clar­ify that.”

Yet Canada made con­nec­tions dur­ing his un­der­grad­u­ate years in Bloom­ing­ton, specif­i­cally with long­time Hoosiers coach Bill Mal­lory and mem­bers of his staff, that car­ried him through the first 15 years of his ca­reer.

“I met with Coach Mal­lory, and it changed my life,” said Canada, who grew up about 90 min­utes north of Bloom­ing­ton in New Pales­tine, a square-mile ham­let with a pop­u­la­tion of around 2,000.

Af­ter Canada spent the 2004 sea­son as In­di­ana’s quar­ter­backs coach, Di­Nardo was about to pro­mote him to of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor when Steve Ad­dazio, now the coach at Bos­ton Col­lege, left to go to Florida.

Di­Nardo met with the ath­letic di­rec­tor to talk about his staff, not re­al­iz­ing he was about to be fired.

“He wanted in­tel for the next guy,” Di­Nardo said. “As I was ex­plain­ing the sit­u­a­tion to him, I told him I wanted to make Matt Canada my of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. I had that much con­fi­dence in him af­ter be­ing to­gether three or four months.”

Terry Hoepp­ner, who re­placed Di­Nardo, hired Canada as the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor.

“There was two coaches there that have both passed — Coach Hoepp­ner and Coach Mal­lory — who were very close to me and very in­stru­men­tal in my life, and Coach Di­Nardo hired me back there, too,” Canada said. “In our pro­fes­sion, the peo­ple you’re around do mold you. … I was very, very for­tu­nate as a young coach to be around great coaches.”

While some of those mem­o­ries might re­turn when Canada walks into Me­mo­rial Sta­dium to­day, the only fo­cus ap­pears to be an In­di­ana team that will try to break its four-game los­ing streak and a bunch of Terps un­happy about the way they played in last week’s 24-3 home loss to Michi­gan State.

As much as some are spec­u­lat­ing about the chances Canada has of turn­ing the in­terim ti­tle into a full-time po­si­tion — as ath­letic di­rec­tor Da­mon Evans, who gave Canada his shot, did in suc­ceed­ing Kevin An­der­son — Canada said he is sim­ply think­ing about the next game rather than the next move.


Mary­land in­terim coach Matt Canada speaks with play­ers dur­ing a time­out in the first half of the team's 63-33 win over Illi­nois on Oct. 27 in Col­lege Park.

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