La Salle coach John Giannini enjoying the ride

John Giannini admits that whenever he thinks his Explorers need a jolt, he's happy to provide it.
John Giannini admits that whenever he thinks his Explorers need a jolt, he's happy to provide it.
Posted: February 18, 2013

La Salle coach John Giannini was on I-295 late Saturday afternoon, headed for Swedesboro to join his wife and two daughters for dinner along with a couple of longtime friends - a husband and wife Giannini said he has known since his days coaching at Rowan.

"They know if we lost, all bets are off," Giannini said as he drove. The rest of the group still would have made it to the Italian place close to his home but they'd have needed one fewer seat.

"I'm sitting in the office with my staff trying to figure out what went wrong [if we lose]," Giannini said.

Since the Explorers had gotten past St. Joseph's at the Palestra, Giannini maneuvered his SUV out of the second floor of the emptying parking garage at Penn, down Chestnut Street to the Schuylkill, and across the Walt Whitman Bridge toward I-295. His phone kept pinging every minute or two.

His first point guard at Rowan texted, "Tell Ramon, way to close out the deal. . . . Great signature win."

That was a good way to put it. The Explorers improved to 18-6, cementing their place as the top team in Philly, at least until Thursday's game at Temple. You could make the case the win was Giannini's biggest as La Salle's coach.

His emotions?

"It's a sense of relief," Giannini said. "Losing is so hurtful that the immediate reaction is one of wonderful relief."

Coaching the Explorers is heavy lifting. Giannini is in his ninth season pushing the rock up the slope. A little satisfact-

"No!" Giannini cut off the word before it hit the conversation. "As big as St. Joe's is, Temple is as big, and then Rhode Island is as big. Every game counts the same in the conference standings, and with the NCAA. Every game is the Super Bowl. We have two Super Bowls a week."

It was mentioned to Giannini that he seemed to be a little calmer than he typically has been on the sideline. Mistakes by Explorers players, the mental ones especially, always have had him flying out of his chair, the embodiment of anguish.

"I've tried to do that all year - I've tried," Giannini said. "It makes it easier when you have kids who listen and players that you trust."

These days, Giannini said, his veteran players are talking like coaches, which makes the whole deal so much easier. Of course, if he thinks his team needs a jolt, he's happy to provide it.

"Short of that, I'm not so sure it's helpful to be emotional," Giannini said. "That's difficult for me, because I'm seeing years of work played out on the court and I can't take a charge and I can't make a pass and I can't get a rebound. To see your life being played out before you is emotional."

One of his Giannini's players from his previous stop at the University of Maine texted one word: "Bam!"

Driving along, Giannini said he wouldn't sleep much that night, that it always takes him about 24 hours to calm down, win or lose. By the time the rest of his family goes to bed, he's usually "trying to watch a show about astronomy or fishing or something. . . . My mind will be fine. My body has a hard time calming down. It's like skydiving and trying to take a nap right afterward. It's not easy."

In his car, he has two diet Snapple peach ice teas - has to be peach - and one bottle of water. They go in the car in the morning, hit the recycling barrel each night. The bottles of tea for that day already had been emptied that morning before the game.

A text came in from his mentor, the man who had recommended Giannini as a possible graduate assistant to University of Illinois coach Lou Henson, launching his career. "Great Jobbb!!"

Giannini isn't looking to trade jobs with anybody. (He also didn't check the texts until he pulled into the parking lot in Swedesboro.)

"The environment we played in today was incredibly stressful for a coach, but where else in life are you going to get that level of excitement?" Giannini said, allowing his mind to wander back for a moment to the place where he'd spent his afternoon. "You end up with these memories that at some point you'll be able to enjoy."


Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @jensenoffcampus.

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