EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 14, 2013

The man behind the dynasty

For 22 years, Everett High's coach John DiBiaso kept program at top

By Hector Longo
hlongo@eagletribune.com

---- — EVERETT — Around him, the Greater Boston League corrodes, like the 19th or early 20th-century three-deckers that line the streets of this, his blue-collar city. Athletic programs at ex-rivals Cambridge, Somerville, Medford and Malden have withered into the mediocre mire that has become city athletics.

Change rattles around him in now, his 22nd season at Everett High. As he says, the demogaphic on his football team has moved from nearly 100 percent Irish and Italians to a team consisting of Haitian/Creole, Hispanic and Brazilians.

He remains the lone constant. John DiBiaso ... and winning.

Twenty-two seasons with 19 straight GBL titles, 14 Super Bowl appearances, 10 championships and an amazing 219-23 record — all in an era of suburban super-powers and private/prep prominence.

How does DiBiaso do it?

“I sell a very good product (in Everett High football),” the coach says, just days before his Crimson Tide hosts Central Catholic in the Division 1 North championship game Saturday at 1:30. “There’s a tradition in place here like no other.”

A tradition DiBiaso built, athlete by athlete, and continues to nurture today. Now the athletic director at Everett, he dotes over all sports, but football stands like no other program in the state.

Winning in the city. These days the notion is almost absurd.

“It happens,” said DiBiaso, struggling for more than one or two other examples. “Look at how the good coaches at Lawrence High (Paul Neal and most recently Raymond Nunez) have sold the basketball program there. They’ve done it, because they’re good coaches and because they won.

“It’s easy to sell a good product. I’ve had former assistants who tried over in Somerville and Medford. They’ve failed because they didn’t win.”

Like Neal during his coaching tenure at LHS, DiBiaso is a man who refuses excuses. Neal never complained about the athletic talent seeping away from him in the city at Lawrence. He worked around it.

DiBiaso has just taken a more pro-active approach to the private school threat.

“There is not threat,” he said. “We’ve built a fence around Everett, and nobody leaves.”

The coach is dead serious.

Private and prep schools remain the enemy to him, and he believes too many prospective college athletes are trying to make it out of the cities.

Sure, Everett lost one of the highest profile athletes ever to come out, current Philadelphia 76er Nerlens Noel, to Tilton Prep after two years at Everett High. DiBiaso would rather discuss how easily his brothers Jim and Rodman made the academic transition from Everett to BC and NC State, respectively, instead.

DiBiaso touts the individual wins — young, poor, struggling student-athletes riding football out of Everett into the college ranks — as his clincher.

“It’s not hard for me to sell Everett football to parents, immigrant parents, parents who know nothing about the game. If a student does well in football and is a good citizen, there’s great opportunity there to get that kid into college for free.”

The commitment comes early from both sides. Grade schoolers flock to the Pop Warner ranks in Everett to wear the Crimson-and-Gold.

All fantasize about being the next Omar Easy (Penn State), Diamond Ferri (Syracuse), Jimmy Noel (Boston College) or Manny Asprilla (BC). More likely, they grow into the next Angel Duarte.

“Here’s a kid whose father knows nothing about the game, but shows up every night, just to watch Angel play,” said DiBiaso. “The kid bought in. He’s 5-foot-8, 185 pounds and hits like a ton of bricks. Now, he’s an all-state middle linebacker. He’s the perfect poster child for what you want in a student-athlete, or in an Everett football player.”

Duarte will be one of the dozens of players on the current Everett roster, riding football as a way out, a way into college and beyond.

He’s no big timer and won’t ever be considered for the NFL. But he’s well on his way.

“We don’t just have kids playing Division 1 football, we have hosts of kids playing out there,” said DiBiaso, whose son Jonathan rode a prolific career at Everett to the Ivy League, where he is currently at Dartmouth. “Like I say, there’s a place for everyone.

Duarte, as DiBiaso says, is the poster child.

“Like most city kids, kids that grow up in urban environment, they are innately tough. Our kids have always been blue-collar, back to the beginning,” said DiBiaso. “That’s something that hasn’t changed. Everett kids play hard. They leave everything on the field. It’s something I’ve never had to worry about here.”

To his credit, DiBiaso has changed with the times. In transition times, where so many city coaches coached the way they learned, DiBiaso simply opened his eyes.

“You can’t punish a kid for being late for practice because he had to work to help his family,” DiBiaso said. “The kids have jobs now. They babysit their brothers and sisters. You have to adjust.

“Heck, you’ll see me coming to practice here with coloring books and crayons some times. They’re bringing brothers and sisters to practice, and I have to try and accommodate them. It’s the way of the world, and it’s my job to help these kids.”

You can email Hector Longo at hlongo@eagletribune.com.

Everett's Dynasty by the numbers The demographics have changed dramatically over his nearly quarter of a century at the helm at Everett High School, but the winning ways haven't really changed a bit for coach John DiBiaso. Going into Saturday's Division 1 North championship with Central Catholic, DiBiaso's Everett teams have: Gone 219-23 in a career that began in 1992 Won 19 straight Greater Boston League championships Played in 14 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl Championship games, winning titles in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Did You Know? In over a quarter of a century of coaching, John DiBiaso has never taken on Central Catholic. That changes Saturday when the Tide hosts Central for the Division 1 North title. Interestingly, Everett has faced Central a handful of times on the basketball court, and DiBiaso's teams have never beaten the Raiders on the hardwood.