ROCKFORD - (Click on the above video clip to hear Bruce Bazsali's complete, unedited explanation of why he is no longer the head football coach at Guilford, and how his relationship with former Forreston coach now Guilford head coach Denny Diduch evolved. Read below for more text information.)
Bruce Bazsali told his football team Wednesday morning that he was no longer the head coach at Guilford High School. Later that morning he told me the reason why.
No, there was no fall-out with school administrators. There was no movement behind-the-scenes to have assistant coach Denny Diduch take over.
"I'm no longer the head coach by my choice," said Bazsali. "I want to make that very clear. The school didn't force me out. In fact they've been very, very supportive of me and very complimentary to me and the job that I did."
"It was my job to keep. I was never asked to step down and I know there's a lot of people thinking that because Denny Diduch is going to take my job that maybe the school has something to do with this."
Bazsali's decision to remove himself as the head coach boiled down to health issues and the demands of being a head coach.
Bazsali told me he had an incident late last week that landed him in the hospital and it was a wakeup call for him.
"Last Thursday I had a little problem when I was doing work in the backyard. Some pains in the chest with some blood pressure issues and things like that, and I was in the hospital overnight and they did some testing and things like that and they felt it was just best I take some of the pressure off myself."
So he explained the situation later to school administrators. He says they were willing to accommodate him in whatever way he needed.
"They told me if I wanted to I could remain the head coach and hold the title and I didn't think that was right."
Bazsali was in good spirits and his usual enthusiastic self Wednesday, so his health issues appear to be under control, but he knows at age 73 he needs to be cautious. Knowing he already had Diduch on his staff, a highly successful head coach the last ten years at Forreston it was Bazsali who pushed for Diduch to take over as the head coach.
"All this experience and two state championships you can't find a better coach if you search for two years and here they've (school administrators) got this guy that we can get in a day."
There has never been a power struggle nor even a snippet of animosity between Bazsali and Diduch. Quite the contrary. Bazsali says they hit it off when they first met by chance over a year ago at a football clinic. It was Bazsali who wanted Diduch to come to Guilford moreso than anyone in the administration did.
"For some reason I ran into Denny at a clinic and I hadn't been to a clinic for 20 years...and we started talking and talked some more and finally I offered him a job if he wanted to come coach with me because I needed a coach. What a great guy! What a great coach!"
Bazsali is still more than healthy enough to assist Diduch and so he will, but his load of responsibilities will be significantly reduced.
"I'm going to step back somewhat and be released of all the things I never really liked to do as a head coach and I can just coach and I can remain as long as I would like and as long as I can stay healthy."
"Already I feel a bit relieved. I feel a lot of pressure off. I feel like I accomplished what I wanted to in coming here. Our numbers are really more than doubled, almost tripled from what we had last year. Our discipline is better, the things I knew where we had to improve...and so I feel we're in a great place."
Guilford went 4-5 in Baszali's first season as head coach last year just missing out on the playoffs. That was after the Vikings won only one game the previous season under a different head coach. Prior to last year Bazsali had transformed Rockford Lutheran's football program from a Big Northern doormat into a state powerhouse. He got Lutheran into the playoffs the last five years of his seven year stint at that school. In all Bazsali has been involved in coaching high school football for more than 50 years.
So this season hasn't begun exactly how Bazsali had envisioned it would, but he is a religious man, and he believes that a higher power has been in control of every facet of his life recently from his move from Lutheran to Guilford, to his chance meeting with Diduch, to Diduch being open and available to joining Guilford last spring, to keeping Bazsali healthy enough to continue to be involved with the sport he loves.
"I think fate brought us (Bazsali and Diduch) together," says Bazsali, "And God also warned me, because I was stubborn about going to the doctor, warned me and said, 'Look, you're not going to do this on your own. This guy is here. Take advantage of it, so He sent me a little warning message, so I'm listening Lord. I'm doing what you want me to do."
"I really believe that I've always had an angel on my shoulder. I've always felt like God is watching over me."
Note: Diduch was attending a teachers' orientation meeting Wednesday morning and he wasn't available at that time for an interview. Be watching for our Guilford preview with him in the coming days as we continue to preview our local high school teams.
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