Gasparato keeping Trojans focused on finishing strong

Published 11:36 am Tuesday, December 12, 2023

On Monday, Tulane officially introduced Jon Sumrall as the newest Green Wave head coach. Back in Troy, Sumrall’s former team – guided by interim coach Greg Gasparato – is preparing for the biggest bowl game in school history.

Gasparato is in his first year as the defensive coordinator at Troy and has now had the interim head coach title attached to him.

“I have a completely new amount of respect for every single person in this building and what they do on a day-to-day basis,” Gasparato said. “There are a lot of things you don’t really have to worry about or think about as an assistant (coach). It’s amazing. It’s been hectic but it’s been fun, too. It’s a new challenge for me.”

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Gasparato reformed the team on Saturday and guided them through a pair of practices before breaking for finals again.

“There wasn’t a lot of change. For the first two practices we kept things about focusing on us,” he said. “We didn’t do anything Duke related. The players didn’t watch any tape on Duke or anything, we just wanted to work on the things that we struggled with during the season and wanted to address those things. We also wanted to get back to game speed.

“It had been awhile since we were on the field, so we wanted to get some good-on-good offense vs. defense in, so those guys could get used to popping again and chasing the ball and the speed of the game. The guys were crisp and got the work in and got out of there. It was a good first two days.”

Gasparato said that the Trojans are now focusing on finishing up finals through Wednesday and will begin preparing for Duke on Thursday. As the Troy University administration continues the search for a new coach, Gasparato and his staff are eager to keep their Trojans focused on the task at hand.

“For us, our big focus has always been on the players and it will continue to be that way,” he emphasized. “I know there are a lot of unknowns at this point but we have addressed the team and made them realize that this is a reward for the season they’ve had and not for anything else. They also have a chance to be a part of history and do something that no one has ever done – not only here but in the entire Sun Belt – and beat a Power 5 team in a bowl game.”

Gasparato gave credit to Troy’s seniors for maintaining the focus of the team.

“We knew we have such a strong group of senior leaders that have been the ones to keep things in line as much as anyone,” said Gasparato. “They’ve had a heck of a run these last two years and they don’t want to slow down because of something they can’t control. The senior leadership has stepped up and the coaches have also done a great job of stepping up and doing whatever they’ve been asked to do. Our job is to keep the players focused on finishing this thing up the right way for them and it has been a lot of fun to watch.”

Gasparato has been through the process of coaches leaving before bowl games in the past, which has helped him provide a message to his players.

“For me, fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve been a part of this type of thing four different times,” he said. “Seeing what happens internally – there are coaches that don’t know what’s going to happen with their futures and their families and there’s players that don’t know what is going to happen with their futures – there’s just a lot of unknowns.

“In life, when you’re successful you will have to deal with change a lot more than if you’re just average. So, that’s a lesson we’ve been preaching to our guys all week. When you’re successful, you’re going to have a lot of opportunities and decisions to make. Change is a part of life and how you deal with that change is going to determine the outcomes you get.”

Making sure that players aren’t focusing too much on what comes next is a big point of emphasis for Gasparato.

“Be where your feet are and make the most of it and enjoy it,” he said. “No matter who is here running the ship, this is a reward for the season this team has had and you cannot forget that. It can’t be grueling or something the guys aren’t looking forward to. They need to make sure they are where their feet are and enjoying playing the game they love.”

Gasparato said that the coaches also want to make sure players are having plenty of fun along the way.

“The goal is to reward these guys for a great season and make sure they finish up finals the right way and finish what they started this season, but we also want to do some fun things,” he said. “We’re going to mix up practice here and there just to keep their spirits up and keep them off guard a little bit. They’ve earned this, so we’re going to make sure to make it fun for them. We want to be the freshest, most motivated team come the bowl game.”

Gasparato emphasized that he isn’t thinking about who the next Trojan head coach will be.

“I’m not thinking about anything else other than winning this football game,” he flatly said. “I don’t know what will happen. I wasn’t prepared for this – nobody really can be – it just kind of happens and you get thrown into it. At the end of the day, you do this because of your players and you want to make sure they have a great experience. We still represent Troy, the community, the fan base, the alumni and we’re going to try and make them all proud (at the Birmingham Bowl).”