February 19. 2013 1:18AM
Penn State‚??s new head coach is back in State College and will attend a public viewing for Joe Paterno today at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on campus.
O‚??Brien is charged with taking up for Paterno, who died Sunday morning of lung cancer at age 85. O‚??Brien was able to speak with the former coach by phone before he was admitted to the hospital for the final time.
On the night O‚??Brien was officially hired by Penn State, Paterno gave his fellow Brown University alum, his blessing.
‚??It means a lot,‚?Ě O‚??Brien told The Times Leader on Monday. ‚??Here‚??s a man that was the coach for 61 years, 46 as head coach. I can‚??t say enough of how he did it here ‚?? how people feel about him. It‚??s really important for us to hold up that same standard of excellence.‚?Ě
That begins with a commitment.
The 42-year-old Massachusetts native still has an old one of those to finish first. On Wednesday night, he will fly back to New England and on Thursday he will begin preparing for Super Bowl XLVI.
For O‚??Brien it will be one final game ‚?? Feb. 5 in Indianapolis against the New York Giants ‚?? as the Patriots‚?? offensive coordinator. While he will have two more weeks of splitting time between two jobs, O‚??Brien was emphatic that his future lies in Happy Valley.
‚??No question,‚?Ě he said. ‚??When I took the job, I don‚??t believe Penn State was hiring a coach for the next three years. I believe they were hiring a coach for a little bit longer than that.
‚??Obviously you take everything day-by-day, but I intend to be here a long time.‚?Ě
Fortunately for O‚??Brien, the Patriots have been through this before. In December 2004, then-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was hired as head coach at Notre Dame but stayed on staff with New England throughout the playoffs.
The Patriots wound up beating the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, and the team has essentially followed the same model with O‚??Brien.
‚??I‚??ve been very fortunate in New England that I have a guy who (head coach Bill Belichick) has assigned to me as a de facto administrative assistant for things related to Penn State,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??What we‚??ve put together here has been really good.‚?Ě
Of course, it doesn‚??t leave much time for sleep. During a ‚??normal‚?Ě work day, O‚??Brien spends the early morning hours and late night hours focusing on Penn State, with time spent on the Patriots in between.
That‚??s how it worked for Weis, who famously said that he bought an air mattress for his office in Foxborough during his stretch of double-duty.
Sadly, the makeshift bed was not left behind for O‚??Brien.
‚??No,‚?Ě he said with a laugh. ‚??I try to sleep‚?Ľ One rule I have, I absolutely have to get a least one hour of sleep in my own bed with my wife.‚?Ě
In his waking hours, O‚??Brien has been busy making recruiting calls and finalizing details for his new coaching staff.
Penn State has announced eight out of nine members of the staff, and O‚??Brien said a decision on the last spot will be made after the Super Bowl.
In a hectic media scrum after his introductory press conference earlier this month, O‚??Brien had said he would be calling the plays on offense in his first year. Subsequent Penn State releases said that there would not be an offensive coordinator named.
On Monday, O‚??Brien said both of those things were not necessarily true and that no final decisions had been made.
‚??That‚??s something we‚??re going to discuss what we‚??ll do full-time,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??Yes, I‚??m going to be very involved with the offense, but as far as play-calling, that depends on where I go with that (last coaching) spot.‚?Ě
O‚??Brien said there ‚??might be‚?Ě an offensive coordinator named, but followed it up by saying that ‚??titles don‚??t mean anything.‚?Ě
‚??What‚??s important on staff is that each guy on staff understands their roles. ‚?Ľ Every guy on staff will know his role. I‚??m in the process of still defining some of those roles.‚?Ě
As far as the players he inherits from Paterno, O‚??Brien will head to today‚??s memorial along with them.
And remember what has made Penn State so successful in the past.
‚??He cared so much about his players,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said of Paterno. ‚??He cared about them way more off field than as just football players. He knows he had good football players, but he taught them how to be men off the field.
‚??Obviously we‚??ll try to do the same.‚?Ě