Pioli Standing Pat

Time Herald Record – February 04, 2005

Washingtonville: Wash’ville grad loyal to old gang

By Kevin Gleason Times Herald-Record kgleason@th-record.com

The sports world knows him as New England’s vice president-player personnel, the background brains of head coach Bill Belichick. As the hottest personnel man in the NFL.

The folks in the ‘Ville know him as Scott.

Of course there are times when the gang from Washingtonville – the ‘Ville, as they say – pauses to consider their famous friend. Like when they see him absorbing the ultimate win on the Super Bowl podium, or hearing someone real famous, say Terry Bradshaw, talking him up.

Talking up Scott Pioli, 39, Washingtonville Class of ’83.

But such moments are fleeting. Quickly the sought-after personnel man is back to being Scott, the guy who learned football from Belichick but life from Washingtonville.

“He is very loyal,” says Ray Jarosz, Pioli’s former jayvee football coach.

“Commitment is big for him,” says Washingtonville High assistant principal Sue Cooney, who grew up with Pioli.

“Roots run deep for Scott,” says his dad, Ron.

Pioli is the reigning NFL executive of the year. He has helped mold the team of the new millennium and, with a win over Philadelphia on Sunday, New England would claim its third Super Bowl title in four seasons.

Pioli has become quite guarded with the media. His answers have a distinct Belichick-like tenor: always polite, sometimes expansive, rarely comprehensive. This is the Patriots’ way – sharing crumbs of information, frowning on individualism and hubris.

It also is, in part, the Pioli way. Ask him about being mentioned for GM jobs and he won’t say much. Ask about the ‘Ville and he won’t stop talking. Pioli, blessed with the gift of gab, is uncomfortable discussing himself.

“A lot of people I’m very involved with can tell the story better than me,” he says over the phone earlier this week, a day before heading to Jacksonville, Fla.

MAYBE THE PLACE to start is a phone call to Jarosz’s home in Middletown the day after New England’s win over Pittsburgh in the AFC title game. Pioli was inviting Jarosz and his wife, Larri, to Jacksonville for an all-expenses-paid trip to the Super Bowl.

“It’s one of the nicest things that has ever happened to me,” Jarosz says.

Pioli’s high school coach, Frank Green, got the same call. Ray Ruckdeschel, Green’s assistant, got the call, too. And so the Greens and the Ruckdeschels and the Jaroszes – Pioli’s three main high school coaches and their wives – are going to the Super Bowl on him.

“I cried when I saw Ray and Sue Ruckdeschel beaming,” Cooney says. “It’s just such a special thing.”

Cooney’s going, too, and so is her son Matt, 13, though she insists on absorbing much of the tab. They visit the Patriots’ training camp each year, where Matt has met Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri.

Matt Spencer, fellow ‘Ville Class of ’83, best man at Pioli’s wedding – he’s going. Another high school buddy’s going, and others had to pass because of commitments.

Pioli has tried to bring different people to the Super Bowl each time the Pats have made it. Another couple appearances and the counter girl at Stewart’s will be going.

Scott’s parents, Diane and Ron, will be going to their third Super Bowl in four years.

“He’s extremely grateful for everything that he has,” Ron says. “That’s why he’s so willing to share.”

PIOLI STILL VISITS his second-grade teacher when he comes home, still calls Jarosz “coach” and still calls his former next-door neighbor Mr. Gorman. Just the way he was raised.

Pioli’s childhood bedroom is pretty much the way he left it, including the Bruce Springsteen poster on the wall. Pioli still has his youth sports trophies, still has his first Little League shirt, a Royals top filled with holes he wore at 6.

“We were thinking of selling the house 10, 15 years ago,” Diane says. “If you could have heard him: ‘Sell? I was born in that house!'”

Their seven-room ranch sits atop a hill off Route 208, between Monroe and Washingtonville. This is where Diane and Ron envisioned home from two sticks in the land, had it built by 1964 and blew one final kiss to Middle Village, Queens.

They joined a neighborhood of middle-class families heavy on public servants. Ron worked for the telephone company. Diane worked overtime raising four kids, Scott and brother Derek, and sisters Laura and Lisa, the two oldest. Diane returned to work to help pay Scott’s college tuition and has been retired since 2000.

Ron retired from the phone company in ’97. So two years ago, at age 63, he returned to active membership in the South Blooming Grove Fire Department.

The parents are asked their most important values imparted to Scott. They say honesty and “old-fashioned stuff like treating others like you want to be treated,” Diane says.

“He has really, really done things I never thought in a million years he’d accomplish. He’s got that stat-head.”

Stat-head?

“He can remember things that nobody else can remember,” Diane says. Pioli’s memory amazes friends, as well. He never forgets a face, especially those from the ‘Ville.

 
 

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