Doug Marrone was once one of us ... a CGA assistant, in fact

And so the man entrusted with taking down the monolith known as the New England Patriots used to be one of us. Yep. Lived right there down on Westomere Terrace in New London. An assistant football coach at Coast Guard Academy. And this much we know about Doug Marrone, the coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars: Of all the gin joints ... he liked ours best.

Now he's national news, the coach of an NFL upstart, the bunch of Davids on Sunday in Foxborough hoping for the precision of the slingshot. But Marrone once belonged to us, back in 1993, the offensive line coach at the local military hamlet by the Thames.

"He stopped in one day one summer out of the blue," Coast Guard coach Bill George was saying earlier this week. "We walked all around campus. He said 'I remember this and I remember that' as we walked. You could tell he really loved the place."

George was not yet the coach here in '93. Marrone coached with Bill Schmitz. But in an earlier life, he lived on the couch in a house with current Coast Guard defensive coordinator (and head baseball coach) CC Grant. They were at Cortland State together.

"Just a good dude," Grant said. "We had a lot of fun. He was finishing his degree at Syracuse and coaching with us at Cortland. You could tell he'd been coached well. He really knew the game. But Doug was always just a regular guy. He never big-timed anyone."

Marrone lived on Westomere Terrace with Scott Schoonmaker and Mike Pennella, among others. Schoonmaker, who once coached basketball at St. Bernard, is the superintendent of schools in North Branford. Pennella teaches at Westbrook Middle School.

"Mike Buscetto would visit the house sometimes," Coast Guard associate head basketball coach Bob Bono said. "Doug would call Mike Buscetto 'Mike Dairy' (his family owned Michael's Dairy) and he'd call Pennella 'Mike Non Dairy.'"

Marrone, like the line from the Johnny Cash song, has been everywhere, man. I caught up with him a few years ago at Big East Media Day while he coached Syracuse.

Marrone was under siege from the dreaded Newhouse School of Journalism students at Syracuse. If you want to know why Jim Boeheim is such a sourpuss, it's likely because he must answer interminable questions from Newhouse newbies who are all trying to be the next Stephen A. And don't know their 'A' from their, well, you know.

That day, Marrone was in monotone breaking down his third string safeties when I interrupted.

"Coach," I said, "kind of an oddball question here. But what do you remember about your days at Coast Guard?"

Marrone's face brightened like someone just brought him a Bud Light and some wings.

"Coast Guard!" Marrone said jubilantly, almost alarmingly. "I loved that place. I've been a lot of places. But if my career had stopped there ... I would have been very happy if my career ended at Coast Guard."

Marrone kept going, to the chagrin of all the Syracuse people, who were rather disinterested.

"Of all the places I've been," Marrone said, "that's the place where the most kids keep in touch with me. They're all captains and pilots now. It's amazing. I was on Nantucket with my family one time and two people approached me and said, 'You're Doug Marrone.' They told me they went to Coast Guard and how they're officers now and that 'we follow your career.'

"Coast Guard has such high standards," he said. "It limits your talent pool. It might be the toughest school to get into as far as applicants per the number of people accepted. It's amazing what they go through. And they all do it with smiles on their faces. It's really a different feeling to coach there. When you make a decision to bring someone in, you're thinking, 'this person is going to protect our country.' You have a great responsibility. They're going to represent the United States of America. I was really excited about that."

So now the Wizard of Westomere has all eyes on him Sunday tries to stop the Patriots. At least Marrone has Tom Coughlin, the Jags' executive vice president of football operations, with him. That'll shield Marrone from pulling a Pete Carroll/Dan Quinn/Mike Tomlin and lose his mind against the Hoodie. Coughlin won his last three games against the Pats while coaching the Giants. Two in the Super Bowl.

So there's that.

Doug Marrone, good guy. He'll have many people from our corner of the world rooting for him Sunday.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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