Duke Greco: Quintessential Aggie
By RICH CIRMINIELLO
There are coaches in college athletics who are inexorably linked to a particular university. Pat Fitzgerald will forever be synonymous with Northwestern, regardless of where his future career path winds. Ditto Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech and Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State. At the Division III level, Duke Greco is Delaware Valley University, and the Aggies couldn’t be happier with the portrayal.
Greco has been a prominent part of the DelVal landscape for nearly two decades, first as a player, then as an assistant coach and now as the head coach of one of the premier D-III programs in America. The Eastern PA native, who starred at Lower Moreland High School in Huntingdon Valley, has not had to stray far to carve out an impressive coaching career that is just beginning to rev into high gear.
The Aggie community was first introduced to Greco at the turn of the century. The plucky kid with the no-quit attitude made an immediate impression with his work ethic and his determination to succeed. Initially a safety, Greco willed his way to the starting quarterback job. And while he ran the ground-based wishbone at Lower Moreland, he needed just 20 games under center at DelVal to graduate as the second most prolific QB in school history.
No one was going to outwork or outhustle Greco on the field, a mindset he has carried into the coaching profession.
Greco worked his way up the ranks at DelVal, beginning as a wide-eyed, eager-to-learn assistant in 2002. He grinded, much the way he did during his playing days, learning from the likes of head coaches G.A. Mangus and Jim Clements before landing the offensive coordinator job in 2006. In Greco’s eight seasons as the leader of the offense, the Aggies won four Middle Atlantic Conference crowns and three times reached the second round of the D-III playoffs. His attacks were perennially balanced, potent and well coached, so when Clements moved on to Division II Kutztown University four years ago Greco was the natural successor.
Replacing Clements, the winningest-ever coach in DelVal history was no small chore. Expectations were not going to be relaxed. But Greco embraced the challenge with his usual enthusiasm, grit and positivity, and he’s helped keep the bar as high as ever in Doylestown. In four seasons at the helm, he’s a stellar 39-7, seamlessly building a bridge to when Clements was in charge. And if 2017 is an accurate harbinger of what lies ahead, the Aggies have just started to ascend under their young head coach.
DelVal was the preseason favorite to win the MAC last fall. DelVal did not disappoint.
After going 9-2 for three consecutive years, the Aggies erupted in 2017 for one of the most dominating and memorable campaigns in program history. Looking past inferior opponents during the regular season? Not a chance. Not with Greco calling the shots.
Taking absolutely nothing for granted—and taking their lead from Greco—the Aggies took no prisoners last fall. They rolled from wire-to-wire, on both sides of the ball and in every imaginable fashion. After holding off ranked Wesley College, which wouldn’t lose another regular season game, DelVal went on an epic tear highlighted by 11 consecutive victories by at least 20 points. The Aggies didn’t just win a lot of games in 2017. They robbed opponents of their will in a calculated weekly assault that meshed neatly with the personality of their coach.
Greco is a player’s coach, to be sure, but his work ethic, passion for the game and constant pursuit of perfection was evident in the effort and execution of his kids.
“Coach’s philosophy is that you’ve got to be prepared to put in the work to be successful, in any walk of life,” offers all-league LB Nicholas DiGati, who amassed a team-high 101 stops last year. “Everything you get on this campus, you’ll have earned. He runs the program with an attention to the details, and I think it helps that he’s been in our shoes here. More than anything else, he’s taught me that anything is possible in life if you operate with the right attitude and the right amount of effort.”
Effort was never lacking with the Aggies, one of the trademarks of a Greco-coached squad. DelVal gave the other guys no weaknesses to exploit. The balanced offense, led by multidimensional QB Dashawn Darden and RB Devauntay Ellis, averaged almost 39 points per game. DiGati’s D yielded only 10 points per game, despite frequently using reserves late in blowouts. The secondary, headlined by All-American S Shawn Miller? Air-tight, picking off more than three times as many passes as touchdowns allowed. Greco spent his first three seasons as a head coach perfecting the program, before unleashing the refined product on the rest of the MAC in 2017.
DelVal’s steamroll through the 2017 schedule included a number of notable milestones. By the end of November, the Aggies had run their winning streak to 16 games, the longest in school history. They ended a three-year playoff drought, routing Western New England University and Husson University to reach the quarterfinal round of the Division III playoffs for the first time since 2005. And for his tireless teaching, Greco was named the 20th Tri-State Coach of the Year, joining Mangus and Clements in the exclusive fraternity.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing Duke Greco since he was one of my players in high school,” states Maxwell Football Club Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Mark Wolpert. “What stood out most to me at that time, and what still stands out, is his attention to detail. He understands the importance of being prepared and his detail-oriented approach is the foundation of what makes him successful. I am so proud to see one of my former players achieve the level of success that Duke has in the coaching world. He is one of the bright young stars in the coaching world today and I know the future holds great things for him and his Delaware Valley program”.
Last season ended painfully for Delaware Valley University, a crushing 31-28 loss to The College at Brockport on a field goal as time expired. It erased a valiant fourth-quarter rally, snapped the historic winning streak and ended hopes of a national championship. But heads around these parts didn’t hang for long. Too much left to be done. Too many goals yet to be reached. Too much fire in the coach’s belly. Greco is as DelVal as an A-Day weekend in Doylestown on a warm April afternoon. And that’s a green and gold partnership capable of turning this past season into the start of a trend.
Rich Cirminiello is the Director of College Awards for the Maxwell Football Club, and someone who revels in the opportunity to tell each award winner’s unique story.
Winner: TRI-STATE COACH AWARD -Delaware Valley University