Late last week, the all-sports broadcasting network invited Michigan State Spartans head football coach Mark Dantonio into their Connecticut studios for a “car wash” series of interviews in which the Spartans’ figurehead would be a guest on a number of their shows and interviews throughout. It was… less than productive. But on Wednesday afternoon, coach Dantonio says he has no qualms about it, because his only focus is winning.
Throughout the day with ESPN, Mark Dantonio was often asked more about the University of Michigan Wolverines and their new head coach John Harbaugh’s celebrity more often than they asked about the Spartans themselves. From Harbaugh’s shirtless antics, to his unusual on-the-field training routines, to his off-putting demeanor, everything was on the table with Dantonio – except, seemingly, his own team’s success, despite numerous recent seasons in the Top 10 ad Top 5 rankings in the country.
Still, Dantonio, as stoic and emotionless as ever, didn’t seem too fazed; even when the ESPN teleprompter spelled his name wrong as “Mike D’Antoni,” he merely scrunched his face and moved on. Now, Dantonio talked with the Detroit Free Press to let them know that none of that matters, all he cares about are his players and more success on the field. To the coach, winning is the best remedy for all. Besides, as Dantonio said, it’s not the first time he’d been misidentified – even in Lansing!
“(A woman) looks at me as though she recognizes me,” the coach said. “She asks ‘What’s your first name?’ and I tell her Mark. And then she asks “What’s your last name?” and I figure that she’ll figure it out now. I tell her Dantonio. And then you prepare yourself for being recognized.”
The woman’s reaction? “No, I thought you were somebody else.” And strolls away.
Dantonio could not help but laugh. “How can you not stay humble after something like that?” Dantonio said.
The focus though is always on his players and how they plan to win. Dantonio feels that this year, his team has the perfect combination of talent, experience, and gruff to get them into the playoffs.
“I think we’re in a good place,” Dantonio said. “I think the leadership has been very good early in this camp from our senior group. And that’s always extremely important. I think there’s great direction within our program at the ground level. And that’s the player level. When you have that at the player level, I think that gives you an added advantage. It’s the players that lead on the field. They have to. They have to get it done on the field.”