Now-unemployed Paterno stays out of spotlight

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson (left) and safeties coach Kermit Buggs were among those who visited Joe Paterno.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson (left) and safeties coach Kermit Buggs were among those who visited Joe Paterno. (MATT ROURKE / Associated Press)
Posted: November 11, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Things were different Thursday morning when Joe Paterno - former head coach of the Penn State football team - woke up in his four-bedroom ranch home near the end of McKee Street next to Sunset Park.

For maybe the first time in 61 years, JoePa had nowhere to go. And he went nowhere - unless he sneaked out the backdoor.

The 84-year-old unemployed coach, fired just after 10 p.m. Wednesday by the university's board of trustees for his role in the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal, spent part of Wednesday night on his front lawn talking up supporters and leading "We are Penn State" cheers.

But on this chilly Thursday, the crowds had gone away, replaced by a small media contingent, and the solitude was broken only by a few visitors.

At 10 a.m., about an hour before defensive coordinator Tom Bradley was introduced as Paterno's successor and the team's interim head coach, a few Penn State assistant coaches, wearing ties and their blue Penn State windbreakers, trudged up the walkway to No. 830 and disappeared inside.

None wore a smile.

Galen Hall, the offensive coordinator who was recruited by Paterno when Paterno was an assistant coach to Rip Engle in the late 1950s, was there. So was Larry Johnson, who effective Thursday is Penn State's co-defensive coordinator, and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden.

They were there, with their old boss, at a time when they usually would have been working in their Lasch Building offices, pouring over game plans, or practice schedules, or depth charts.

They likely were not working on football stuff on this day, not in this house. But maybe they were.

Shortly after 2 p.m., Jay Paterno, the coach's son and the Nittany Lions' quarterbacks coach, arrived at the house with the stone front wall, brown front door, and black mailbox. As has been the case these last few days, he declined to comment. But when he got to the front door, he found it locked.

Jay Paterno turned around and laughed, one of the day's few funny moments.

"I'm locked out," he said. "They must not want me here."

A bit later, after Jay left the house - without his father - for team meetings at the football building, Brandon Short, a four-year starter and all-American linebacker who graduated in 1999, made his way to the door. Like most of the coaches before him, Short appeared somber.

Even later, when the sky turned dark and the temperature dropped, some neighbors ventured over for a visit. When they emerged, the open door behind them offered one of the few glimpses inside the house all day. Then the door closed again.

As they crossed the row of reporters and TV crews lined up across the street from Paterno's house, the two women politely asked the group of reporters, who were preparing for their nightly news spots, to turn off their lights and leave Paterno alone.

"They're tired," one of the women said. "They're just tired."

Only later did the reporters go away.


Contact staff writer Jake Kaplan at jake.kaplan1@gmail.com.

 

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