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Hopewell’s Mike Sirianni An Underrated Star Among Western PA Football Coaches



Western Pennsylvania has its share of great high school and college football coaches.

A spirited argument could be had when discussing who the best is and, in the end, there’s no real way to name who’s at the top of the list.

However, someone that’s in that conversation and could very well be at the top of that list is a person that lives in Hopewell.

For the last 22 years, Mike Sirianni has been the head coach at Washington & Jefferson College and the success he’s been able to have is mindboggling.

Try and name me a coach that’s had this sort of success over an extended period.

Sirianni’s Coaching Resume:
*Career Record: 185-44
*That .808 winning percentage ranks him 4th among active head coaches in FBS, FCS, D-11 and D-111 with 10+ years of experience.
*Sirianni’s teams have won at least 9 games 14 times
*Has led W&J to the postseason in 18 of his 21 seasons
*Has never had a losing season as a head coach

That’s pretty amazing stuff. Hopewell Sports Nation had the opportunity to sit-down and talk with this Hopewell resident about this success, his family and plenty of other things.

“If you would have told me 22 years ago, yes, it’s pretty hard to believe,” said Sirianni. “When you start coaching, you think that you’re going to eventually move up or to a different program, but when I did have other opportunities earlier in my career I choose to stay at W&J and I’m have zero regrets about that.”

Courtesy Washington & Jefferson

“Now, I’m to a point where I might be considered too old. When I talked to Lehigh in the last few years about openings, it basically was you’re a D-III coach and probably a little too old. I’m ok with that. But, like I said, if you would’ve told me 22 years ago that I would still be at W&J, I would’ve told you that you’re crazy. W&J is a really good place, my family has enjoyed it and it’s given me freedom to do things that maybe D-1 coaches can’t do.”

Being at one place and in the same job for that long can be difficult for anyone. It just becomes natural to get complacent, lose the fire, lose the edge, etc. How has Sirianni been able to keep this and at the same time remain one of the best coaches in the game?

“I love football. I love the game. I have different players every year that I recruit. W&J football has accomplished a lot, even before I got there. John Luckhardt built this into a powerhouse but there’s not a national championship banner on the wall anywhere at the school. And I think now that’s a realistic goal. Maybe years ago, that wasn’t but D-111 has changed, and we can win a National Championship so that keeps me going.”

Success with the Sirianni family is synonymous. Plenty of family members are involved in coaching and they’re all enjoyed success.

“My dad was a high school coach and a track coach,” said Sirianni. “He was actually one of my coaches growing up. The stadium at our high school was named after him. He was there a long time and I remember when other kids were doing whatever after school, my brothers and I were playing Walter Payton and jumping over the tackle dummies at football practice. Those are great memories that I had.”

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“I’m the oldest. My brother, Jay, won multiple state championships in New York at a school called Southwestern. He’s now the track coach, he switched sports, and hasn’t lost a section meet since 2017. Him and Coach Brunton are racing (laughing). Obviously, then there’s Nick (head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles), who I’m so proud of. He took a lot of chances that I wasn’t willing to take, and he’s worked his way to a position where he’s one of 32 coaches in the NFL. To me, that’s still so surreal because he’s still my little brother. So, it’s been in our blood since we were born and it’s something that we’ve been very fortunate to do. I think the neat part is that I was able to watch people come back to my dad, former players, when I was growing up, and tell him about the influence he had on them. That’s a big part of why I coach, the influence that you’re able to have on these kids.”

The success that Mike and his family have enjoyed is no coincidence. You don’t have this level of success by accident. So, what’s the key been?

“There’s a group of core values that we live by at W&J,” said Sirianni. “I know my brother has a little different core values for the Eagles. But basically, those have been taught to us from home. At W&J, our core values are that we want to create a brotherhood within the program. We want you to be passionate about what you do. I tell every kid if you don’t love football, don’t play. But I also tell them to pick a major that you like.”

Courtesy Washington & Jefferson

“I want them to develop a sense of confidence, knowing that there’s a difference between confidence and cockiness and swagger. Some people might say that about us at W&J and call me that but that’s just their opinion. Confidence comes from hard work, and you earn the right to be confident. The other core value is compete. That’s the one thing my parents instilled in us. Competitors don’t always win but they always compete, and we competed at everything. From checkers to you name it, it was a constant competition of who was going to be the best. Those were values that were instilled in us, and we were fortunate to have parents that were so involved in our lives.”

As we wrapped up our conversation, I tried to get an idea of how Sirianni has been able to main this level of success for so long.

Having a record if 185-44, never having a losing season is obviously impressive. But to be able to do this and adjust with the times and adjust with the different athletes over the last 22 years is equally impressive.

“It starts with that you have to have talented players and coaches are only as good as his players. I think the consistency in which we as coaches try to have with our players every single week. We don’t change things up even if it’s a big game.”

“But you’re right, I’ve had to change from things I did 22 years ago. Kids have changed over the years and that’s ok. When I say kids change, I don’t call the same plays that I did 22 years ago, I don’t run the same defense, we don’t have the same lifting program. Everything has changed over the years and has a coach; you have to be able to adapt.”

“I don’t want to say baby them, but you have to coddle them a little more. I don’t coach high school and thank God. To every high school coach that reads this and sees this, when I speak at coaching conventions, I tell them you are hero’s, I couldn’t do it. I don’t know who you put up with the things that you do, especially from parents. So, in terms of kids changing, I’m sure for high school coaches, I’m sure it’s hard. For me, I just think it’s a little bit different. I don’t think it’s necessarily harder now; I just think it’s different. One thing that has changed is that you can’t treat every kid the same way. You just can’t. I’ve heard coaches say that, but you can’t do that because every kid is different. As a coach, you have to be able to figure out how to push a young players button. Some kids when you yell at them, they crumble so I didn’t yell at him the next four years. Some kids thrive when you get in their face. It’s just about trying to figure your kids out.”

The W&J football factory is strong and is showing no signs of slowing down. So, the last thing I wanted to ask Sirianni is how long he wants to stay on the sidelines and coach?

“I’ll coach until I can’t anymore physically,” said Sirianni. “I love it, I love going to work. I love work with the kids, I love W&J. At our level, we’re more than just coaches to kids, we’re a parent for the single parent kid, in some ways we’re a parent as we’re giving advice. I like the level that I’m at, it’s allowed me to watch my kids play sports. I love where I’m at and I’ll coach until they don’t want me anymore.”


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