As much as Mike Gaspari wanted the Batavia football coaching job to go to Dennis Piron, Gaspari’s longtime protege in no way took a promotion for granted.
“You could have justified a national search, and I’m sure there’d have been a candidate they could have brought in a whole lot more polished, and not having as many nervous tics and goofy shenanigans as I have,” Piron said. “I’m grateful the principal at the time, Lisa Hichens, saw it within her to hire me.”
Three years, 34 victories and one state championship later, Piron has affirmed the Batavia administration’s decision to put their trust in a guy who fesses up to being “a little nuts. I’m crazy. Hyper.”
Fresh off guiding Batavia to the IHSA Class 6A state championship – the first in program history – Piron is also the Kane County Chronicle Football Coach of the Year.
Throughout the season, Piron spoke of how lucky he feels to coach at his alma mater, building off hall-of-famer Gaspari’s successful 26-year run.
“I had a plan to keep things going in a good direction, and [I told the administration] I’d work my can off on behalf of this community, and I think that’s what they got,” Piron said. “They got a worker, a hard worker, a guy who loves what he does and loves the kids he coaches.”
Piron’s ebullient personality stands in contrast to the more reserved, cool-and-collected approach of Gaspari, a man that Piron has called a father figure in his life.
Piron, however, managed to make the transition from fiery defensive coordinator to successful head coach without abandoning his basic makeup, Gaspari said.
“His personality as a head coach hasn’t really changed a whole lot from what it was when he was an assistant and a coordinator,” Gaspari said. “I think kids understand who you are, and they’ll buy into it as long as they know you care, and he certainly does that.”
Gaspari credited Piron for resisting the urge to micromanage. Gaspari (now offensive coordinator) and defensive coordinator Matt Holm anchor a seasoned coaching staff. Piron also has been lauded by parents and players for his strong communication and organization skills since taking over the program.
Bulldogs running back Anthony Scaccia said Piron is a terrific motivator.
“I think the biggest thing he brings to the team is probably our mentality,” Scaccia said. “He really gets us thinking about the game, gets us in the right mindset, gets us thinking why we’ve been working this hard and how it will pay off on the Friday or Saturday that we play.”
Piron (34-3 as head coach) took his first Batavia team to the state semifinals with a 12-1 mark before last year’s team went 9-1, with a stinging first-round playoff upset loss to Downers Grove North. This year’s group showed no aftereffects, roaring to a 13-1 championship season that included a long string of blowouts in the second half of the regular season and in each of the Bulldogs’ playoff wins except for a 19-14 quarterfinal victory over Lake Forest.
Although Batavia graduates seven seniors apiece from its offense and defense that won the state championship over Richards on Saturday, the Bulldogs have several impact returnees to build around, and should be especially formidable along both the offensive and defensive lines next season.
Piron’s early message to the 2014 Bulldogs – don’t worry about living up to a state championship defense.
“Just work, and let’s see what happens,” Piron said. “Don’t think ahead too much and don’t try to plan the future. Just go to good, hard work together, and then when we’re all done next year, your legacy will be just fine.”