Dungy named coach of Bucs Vikings assistant latest to try making winner of Tampa Bay

He replaces fired Wyche

Says victory, not fate of team, his concern

January 23, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tony Dungy will try to prove that nice guys don't always finish last -- even with Tampa Bay.

Dungy, an assistant coach with Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Minnesota for the past 15 years, signed a six-year deal yesterday to become head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1982.

Dungy, 40, wants to change that situation in a hurry.

"We feel like we're going to make a run at the playoffs; that's our goal," he said in a conference call with reporters at the Super Bowl after being named the Bucs' coach.

Dungy, most recently defensive coordinator for the Vikings, becomes the fourth-youngest coach in the NFL and the league's fourth black in the modern era. Art Shell, who was fired by the Oakland Raiders last year, Minnesota's Dennis Green and Philadelphia's Ray Rhodes were the first three.

Long considered a good bet to become the league's first black head coach, Dungy was continually passed over.

He has a reputation as a skillful X's and O's coach who is liked by his players, but Dungy's low-key personality and reputation of being a nice guy may have hurt him.

"I think people make more of a deal about my personality than it needs to be," he said. "The players know when I'm upset. I don't think that's a problem. I think it's nice not to be out of control. The players know when they're doing what's expected of them."

Said Bucs general manager Rich McKay: "We did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people. They didn't have a negative thought or comment about Tony Dungy."

Although Dungy's name has been mentioned for virtually every job that has opened in recent years, he appeared to get serious consideration only for the Jacksonville and Philadelphia positions last year.

Dungy even was the Bucs' third choice after Steve Spurrier and Jimmy Johnson turned down Tampa Bay.

But Johnson has said that if he hadn't had an emotional attachment to Miami when he took the Dolphins' job, the more logical move might have been to go to Tampa Bay.

Despite the years of losing, the team appears to be improving and has four of the first 41 draft picks this year.

"The bottom line is how we produce and how we play, and I'm very confident that my team will play real well," Dungy said.

Dungy said he thinks Trent Dilfer, who has been a bust his first two years, can be an effective quarterback. He said he believes Dilfer has been going through the typical growing pains of a young quarterbacks.

Dungy replaces Sam Wyche, who was fired Dec. 27 after compiling a 23-41 record in four seasons. The Bucs were 7-9 last season, their best record since 1982, but lost seven of their last nine games.

The only drawback to the Tampa Bay job is the uncertain future of the franchise. Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer has been actively looking for a new home because Tampa has been unable to come up with the new stadium funding.

On Sunday, the Bucs' relationship with the city soured after the team released copies of a letter to local officials that accused them of spreading falsehoods and providing phony information to the team and public during negotiations for a replacement for Tampa Stadium.

Dungy said the team's future was not a factor in his negotiations.

"We all hope the team plays in Tampa. I'm a traditionalist. I would prefer everything stays as it is," he said. "But that's not really my concern as a coach. My concern is to get the team ready to play the best football it can play."

Dungy, a quarterback at the University of Minnesota, wasn't drafted in 1977, but signed with the Steelers as a defensive back and played two years there before being traded to San Francisco in 1979. He was then cut by the New York Giants in training camp in 1980 and started his coaching career at his alma mater that fall. The following year, he joined the Steelers' coaching staff and spent eight years there before going to the Chiefs and then the Vikings.

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