Contra Costa Times

Mariucci blindsided by York's phone call
January 17, 2003
By Cam Inman

SANTA CLARA - You had me (fired) at hello.

That's the way Steve Mariucci described a fateful, Monday night telephone call with 49ers owner representative John York, a call that by most accounts sealed Mariucci's firing Wednesday after six seasons as 49ers coach.

"Believe me, there was nothing in that conversation that made him think one thing or another, because he seemed to be upset as soon as I said hello," Mariucci told reporters Thursday at a hotel two blocks from the 49ers facility. "I don't know how or where that started. By judging the tone of his voice, he was very angry, and I don't know why.

"Without getting into the particulars of our conversation, he led me to believe that somewhere along the line, things have changed quickly or maybe this was just the time to do this."

York claimed Wednesday that during their hour-long phone conversation, Mariucci reiterated a "demand" to become vice president of football operations when John McVay retires from the post, which is scheduled to occur May 1.

Mariucci said he assured York he had "enough to do" as coach and simply was volunteering his services to fill at least some of McVay's role.

"I told him that I was very willing to do that, certainly not demanding it," Mariucci said. "I was simply being receptive to the idea if they chose to go in that direction. If they said no, it would be fine."

Said York on Wednesday: "His demand on Monday was that if (McVay's job) was available, he would like to have it, and I told him that I did not feel that was something that was going to be discussed. Regardless of backing away from it or not, the fact it keeps coming up makes it clear it's his desire to have an expanded role."

When the call ended, Mariucci said he braced his wife, Gayle, for the imminent bad news.

"There was not a lot of dialogue back and forth," Mariucci said of his discussion with York. "There was more listening on my part. ... I was as baffled by the phone conversation and the course of the tone in his voice that I could be."

Mariucci said he and York also discussed weekend reports about his possible move to the Jacksonville Jaguars, something Mariucci claimed he had no interest in pursuing.

As for replacing McVay, that's another matter, and a cloudy one.

McVay, the franchise's unsung hero for navigating it out of salary cap turmoil, said his job is virtually limited to signing players and restructuring contracts.

"Nobody in their right mind wants to do cap, contracts and restructurings," McVay said.

Mariucci echoed those sentiments Thursday, stating he didn't want to have to deal with agents and contracts in the offseason when he instead could be vacationing with his family at Lake Tahoe.

"The additional responsibility was interesting if it arose, but it certainly wasn't necessary," Mariucci said.

McVay, 72, said reports from weight trainers, equipment managers and travel staff no longer go through his office, but general manager Terry Donahue's.

Mariucci said he also used to oversee job evaluations for trainers, equipment men, travel staff and video personnel until Donahue took over those responsibilities when he and Bill Walsh came to the franchise in 1999.

"I almost looked at it as if I was stripped of some responsibility," Mariucci said.

What will Mariucci's next responsibilities entail?

He said reports of him going into broadcasting were premature, and that he doesn't have "a clue" what he's going to do next, other than accompany his son, Tyler, on a college football recruiting trip.

Mariucci said he supposes he'll coach again, and he hid any possible bitterness that he won't be doing so with the 49ers.

"You've got to be kidding me. These were the most exciting times you could imagine," Mariucci said. "It was challenging. It was awesome. ... No regrets, no animosity."

He wasn't too pleased, though about how Wednesday's events unfolded, with radio and Internet reports declaring his firing before he had ended his 11/2-hour meeting that morning with York.

"I told them yesterday that I kind of frowned on hearing about it on the radio before I was able to tell my coaches, or have them call their wives, or me call my wife," Mariucci said. "They knew about it before I was even out of the room. That was a little rough, but it happens."

As for his covert exit Wednesday from the team facility, he called it "The Great Escape," how he and his wife were driven away from the 49ers facility in a black van by one of the team's maintenance workers. Although the Mariuccis were secluded in the back, television camera crews caught wind of the van's occupants and ran tape of the getaway Wednesday night.

"Jeez, I thought we pulled one off on you guys, and I guess not," Mariucci said. "Gayle and I were driving out of there, and I said I hoped this was no indication of what's to come next -- living in a van down by the river."

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