BACK HOME IN INDIANA, CANADA SEES VISIT AS JUST ANOTHER GAME
Back home in Indiana, Terps interim coach sees visit as just another game
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.