Forty-three years can seem like a lifetime to some but for the active winningest football coach in Division III sports, it feels like his career started yesterday. Rick Giancola has been a part of the Montclair State Red Hawks as head coach of the football team since July, 1983. He was previously an assistant coach starting in 1976.
For any coach at any level his achievements are what one would aspire to be. He is the all-time winningest coach in MSU history and has held that record since 1989. He has led the Red Hawks to 11 of their conference record 20 NJAC Championships and has been named coach of the year eight times. What might stand out to most is he has seen 20 of his players sign professional contracts over the years and coach keeps in touch with them.
“Those guys are always here visiting,” Giancola said. “They’re heart is here at Montclair State. They bleed Montclair State Red.”
Not only did Giancola have future NFL players on his roster, but now their sons play for him. The dream of going to the professional level as an athlete is one that many dream of but only few achieve. Giancola gives hope to his players but makes sure to always bring them back to reality by saying it isn’t easy. The work they put into what they want will give them a better outcome.
Two of Giancola’s helping hands are assistant coach/offensive coordinator Steve Sciarappa and assistant coach/defensive coordinator Todd Agresta. Sciarappa is in his third season with Giancola after being Monmouth University’s assistant coach and Mater Dei Prep’s head coach in Middletown. Agresta is in his 19th season with Giancola and 15th season as defensive coordinator. They all learn from each other and both appear as candidates for head coach when the time comes, but it doesn’t look like that will be happening anytime soon.
“He’s a great role model and I don’t think the time for him to retire will ever come,” Sciarappa said. “He has a lot of gas left in that tank and I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
Giancola has seen different generations of young athletes but always treats them the same and makes them feel fortunate to be a part of the Red Hawk Culture.
“The biggest tradition he has instilled is accountability and the way he treats these 18 and 19 year olds as young men helps them rise to the challenge,” Sciarappa said.
Long before Agresta’s assistant coaching days he was around Giancola as a child given his father was on the staff.
“He’s like a mentor to me and I try to model myself after him,” Agresta said. “We model our staff the organized way Coach G does it. I learned a lot from that along with the football part of it and I’m just glad to be a part of this great experience for all these years.”
When senior captain and linebacker Mauro Altamura became a part of the football team Giancola exceeded his expectations with his willingness to win and push everyone to the best they can be.
“It’s an honor knowing the trust my teammates have in me to lead them and of course get the final nod from the coaches, but hopefully I have done what I can to show them how much I care about this team,” Altamura said.
“Keep Pounding” is a phrase the Red Hawks will always keep with them. Former linebacker Sam Mills played for Montclair State from 1977-1980 when Giancola was an assistant coach. Mills eventually made it to the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers. In Carolina, his famous phrase came to be before a first round home playoff game. It stuck ever since and has been motivational to many athletes.
For senior punter Hunter Daly, Giancola’s advice and Mill’s phrase will be embedded with him not only football wise but throughout life.
“When adversity hits you have to keep pounding,” Daly said. “Don’t ever hold back and whenever you get the chance, fight for it. That’s what will always stick with me.”
It’s a bitter-sweet feeling for senior running back Willie Barr when the time will come to walk off that field one final time.
“The bonds I have built with people here will last a lifetime,” Barr said. “I always tell the underclassmen that and there are going to be a lot of bumps in the road but if they keep pounding they will get through it.”
As a freshman it can be intimidating but for wide receiver Brennan Ray the Red Hawk culture welcomed him with open arms.
“I felt like I was part of a family right from the beginning,” Ray said. “Everyone is great and there’s nothing better for me than playing for Coach G with the legacy he has.”
Giancola believes getting a degree is just as important as winning on the field. For every incoming player that walks into his office, he makes sure they know what the expectations are and how they are supposed to go about doing it. He pushes his players to be the best version of themselves and once they realize what they can achieve on and off the field, they can look back and thank coach.
“I want them to be an ‘and guy’ and be someone who is successful in school and on the field,” Giancola said. “They can take that mentality with them when they graduate and go out to work.”