Niles names Sassano new football coach

Published 6:03 am Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Niles named former Penn assistant Joe Sassano as its new football coach Tuesday. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Niles named former Penn assistant Joe Sassano as its new football coach Tuesday. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

For the second time in five years, Niles will have a new football coach this fall.

Niles introduced Joe Sassano as its new varsity football coach Tuesday afternoon.

Sassano, who coached the varsity at LaSalle-Peru in Illinois from 2007-2013, met with the players in the Niles cafeteria and laid out his vision for the Viking program.

Sassano was an assistant coach at Penn High School in Mishawaka from 1995 to 2007 and also coached at Archbishop Weber High School in Chicago and the University of Chicago.

“Coach Sassano has demonstrated that he knows how to build a winning program and he is dedicated to helping kids on all levels,” Niles Athletic Director Jeff Upton said. “We are pleased that he decided to move back to our area and is willing to work on building a fundamentally solid football program.

“We want our community to be proud of our athletic teams and have success on the field, in the classroom and in our community. Coach Sassano is the right person to lead our Vikings.”

During the meeting, Sassano told the players that the “program is for the coaches. The team is for the seniors.”

He expects his senior class to be held accountable for the team. He also talked about discipline and accountability.

Sassano said he has watched some film already from last season, but does not have a complete plan as to what the Vikings will run on either side of the football.

“I have some ideas of some base stuff that we are going to start with,” he said. “But you have to have the players that can do it. The difference between coaching high school and college is you can go out and recruit the players for your system. You are given what is in the school. Whoever shows up, we are going to find out what they can do and we are going to find some things that are going to fit their skill level.

“And then we are going to coach the heck out of them and get good at it.”

While at Penn, Sassano coached under Chris Geesman and was part of four state championship teams and two state runners-up. At LaSalle-Peru, his teams’ went to the playoffs three times.


Comments from players

“He seems like he is well-organized and knows what he is doing. He seems like he wants the best for us. I like that the team is going to dress the same and family comes first.” — Alex Harpenau


“I’m very excited. I want to see how everything goes this year in the offseason. He says he wants to work on fundamentals and I think that will help us a lot.” — Cameron Canniff


“I like him a lot. I think he is going to lead our team to some pretty successful things. I think he is going to put together a staff that cares for us.” — Mitchell Findeisen