“The life cycle of someone in the coaching profession can be an interesting thing. One year you can be a head coach interviewing someone for an assistant coach or coordinator position, and just a few years later the tables turn and you’re now interviewing with that same person for a position on their staff.
That’s the situation that Minnesota offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca found himself in at Rutgers. As the co-offensive coordinator, former head coach Greg Schiano asked Ciarrocca to meet informally with Fleck over breakfast to see if he’d be a fit for their wide receivers opening on staff. Fleck and Ciarrocca crossed paths at the venue before the restaurant had a table ready for them, and Ciarrocca explains he knew in the first five minutes that Fleck was the right guy for the job.
“We were looking for a receivers coach, and I actually met with PJ at the convention, the head coach called and asked me to meet with him, and I spent about five minutes with him and I knew he was the type of guy that we were looking for.”
“The funny part of the story is that there was another coach with me, and after five minutes…PJ came in a suit and he’s got this briefcase and all this stuff that he wants to show me, and after five minutes, the lady came and said ‘Your table is ready guys,’ and I told them ‘I’m good. I’m leaving.’ So I shook his hand and I left. He’s sitting there thinking, ‘What did I do wrong?'”
“I walked out of there and called the head coach, and said ‘Go ahead and bring him in for an interview. This is our guy,'” Ciarocca explained.
Of course, Fleck landed the job, then left Rutgers with Schiano to become the wide receivers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a season before landing his first head coaching job at Western Michigan.
“I just knew that he was special from the very beginning. I really did. When the opportunity came and he got the head job at Western Michigan, and I had never been out of my little triangle of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware my whole career, I talked with my wife about it, and you always talk about how special he is and how he’s going to be a great head coach, and how he’s a special person, so let’s do it.”
Ciarrocca explains he and his wife couldn’t have picked out Kalamazoo, Michigan (the location of WMU) on a map, but their belief in Fleck prompted Ciarrocca to take the job.
Hear more from Ciarrocca in the clip.