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Joe Avezzano: Former Dallas Cowboys Coach Was More Than a 'Celebrity Coach'

IRVING, TX - DECEMBER 21:  Special teams coach Joe Avezzano of the Dallas Cowboys looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles at Texas Stadium on December 21, 2002 in Irving, Texas.  The Eagles defeated the Cowboys 27-3.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Gene StrotherCorrespondent IIIApril 6, 2012

Joe Avezzano is dead at age 68. Per ESPN, he reportedly died of a heart attack in Milan, Italy, where he was coaching the Milan Seamen of the Italian Football League.

Bill Parcells thinks he is always right. When it comes to football, he is right more than he is wrong, I suppose. But he was wrong about Joe Avezzano.

When Parcells took over as head coach for the Dallas Cowboys, he fired Avezzano, labeling the outgoing, fun-loving, country-song crooning, longtime Cowboys assistant "a celebrity coach."

I will pass on the opportunity to crotch-kick the tuna-shaped, limelight-hogging pot for calling the kettle black. I will not pass on the opportunity to remember a great coach, a good man and a vital part of Dallas Cowboys history—the man players, fans and media called "Coach Joe."

Coach Joe was a fiery coach, known for his enthusiastic sideline demeanor. He spent 12 years with the Cowboys, most of them as special teams coach. He helped to lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowl wins in the '90s. He was named Special Teams Coach of the Year three times as well.

Avezzano managed to sprinkle his special teams with offensive and defensive starters. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Clarence Hill quotes the great safety Darren Woodson, who participated on special teams under Avezzano despite being an elite defensive player:

"He was going to get the most out of his unit," Woodson said. "He didn't care if you were a starter or not. He was a great coach. But he was a better man than he was a coach. Talk to anybody on that team and they all respected the guy for what he was and what he brought. He is going to be missed."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, in a rare moment of lucidity and eloquence, also remembered an old friend and employee in a team statement (per the Oakland Tribune):

"Joe Avezzano was a very special part of our Dallas Cowboys family and our organization's history," Jones said in a statement released by the team. "No one enjoyed life more than Joe, and no one that I know had a greater appreciation for the people that he loved and the lives that he touched. There was no one else like him."

So long, Coach Joe. Thanks for everything.

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