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A Star Coach is Born

Photo by Dan Avila

ENERGETIC and innovative Paul Hackett, a one-time USC assistant coach who has been on coaching staffs that have won a national championship in college and a Super Bowl in the pros, was named USC’s head football coach on Dec. 17, 1997.
He replaced John Robinson, who was relieved of his duties after five seasons at USC. Hackett, who was the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs prior to coming to USC, officially started with the Trojans on Jan. 8, 1998, at the conclusion of the Chiefs’ 1997 season. He signed a five-year contract with Troy.
The 51-year-old Hackett, seen as one of the game’s most progressive offensive coaches, has 29 years of experience as a college and professional assistant and head coach. He has tutored some of football’s top players – including Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Jerry Rice, Andre Rison, Tony Dorsett, Steve Bartkowski, Charles White, Brian Sipe, Herschel Walker, Danny White, Dwight Clark and Vince Evans – and worked under such head coaches as Bill Walsh, Tom Landry, Marty Schottenheimer and Robinson.

“Rebuilding is not part of my philosophy. We are planning and expecting to win.”
With Hackett serving as the offensive coordinator at Kansas City for the past five years (1993-97), the Chiefs advanced to the NFL playoffs in four of those years, including the 1997 season, when they captured the AFC West title with an AFC-best regular season record of 13-3 (with wins in their last six regular season contests).
Before that, he was at the University of Pittsburgh (1989-92), the first season as the quarterbacks coach and then three seasons as the Panthers’ head coach (posting a 13-20-1 record). He actually took over the head coach-ing reins prior to the 1989 John Hancock Bowl, a 31-28 win over Texas A&M. Pitt was eighth nationally in total offense and passing offense in 1992, and Panther quarterback Alex Van Pelt ranked in the NCAA’s Top 10 in total offense in 1991 and 1992.

HACKETT BEGAN his coaching career at his alma mater, UC Davis, in 1969, assisting the fresh-men in the first year and then directing them to a 13-0 mark over the next two seasons.
He then was an assistant at California for four years (1972-75), the first season as a graduate assistant, the next as the receivers coach (tutoring Golden Bear greats Wesley Walker and Steve Rivera) and the final two as the quarterbacks coach. Bartkowski was the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick after being the NCAA’s leading passer as an All-American in 1974 and the late Joe Roth led the Pac-8 in passing and total offense the following year while directing the NCAA’s top-ranked offense.
Then, at age 29, he moved to USC for five years (1976-80), where under Robinson he was in charge of the quarterbacks and receivers for the first two years and the quarterbacks and passing game the final three years. During his Trojan tenure, USC was the 1978 national champion, won four bowl games (including three Rose Bowls), posted a 50-8-2 record and produced a Heisman Trophy winner (Charles White). Among his quarterbacks, Evans was the MVP of the 1977 Rose Bowl, Paul McDonald was a 1979 All-American first teamer while setting 17 NCAA, Pac-10 and USC records, and Rob Hertel established a pair of USC marks. Wide receiver Randy Simmrin also set two USC records under Hackett.
Hackett began his pro coaching career as quarterbacks coach with the Cleveland Browns for two seasons (1981-82). He next was the quarterbacks and receivers coach with the San Francisco 49ers for three years (1983-85). The 49ers won Super Bowl XIX in the 1984 season. He then became the pass offense coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys for three years (1986-88) before returning to the college ranks at Pitt.

“Our main strength is our experience on defense, particularly in the secondary,” Hackett says. “Offensively, there is an excitement of the unknown, of who will come to the front in key positions.”
As a college player, Hackett started at quarterback for three years at UC Davis (1966-68). He led the Far Western Confer-ence in passing as a senior while earning All-Conference first team honors. After starting out as a pre-med major, he received his bachelor’s degree in history from UC Davis in 1969.

THE SON OF A biochemistry professor father, the late David (who taught at California after receiving his doctorate from Harvard), and a mother, Sarah, who was a nurse, Hackett played football (quarterback), basketball and baseball at Miramonte High in Orinda, Calif., in the Bay Area.
He was born on July 5, 1947, in Burlington, Vt., sharing a birthday with former USC head coach John McKay. He and his wife, Elizabeth (they met as students at UC Davis), have two sons, David, 26, and Nathaniel, 18. David played on the 1988 Texas Division III state football champion while at Carroll High in Southlake, Texas. Nathaniel is a freshman on UC Davis’ football team.
As a hobby, Hackett collects old juke boxes filled with 1950s and 1960s rock ’n’ roll. A rock music fan, he sat in the front row at the final Beatles concert, held in 1966 in Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

A Star Coach is Born

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