SF Illustrated

Will 49ers flock to follow Mooch?
February 06, 2003
By Craig Massei

On the day he was named the new head coach of the Detroit Lions, Steve Mariucci happened to mention that he already had hired three men who worked with him last year in the 49ers organization. That begs the obvious questions: Will Mooch raid the Niners of more than just a few good men? And will others happily follow the popular former coach to Detroit? And we're not just talking about coaches and administrative types here. We're talking players.

The Niners have a lot of young talent on their roster that grew up and was nurtured under Mariucci's leadership. A lot of that young talent expressed "love" for their former head coach before and after he was fired. And a lot of that young talent will be up for their second NFL contracts next year and in the near future.

So, for speculation's sake, let's say things don't work out so well for the Niners in 2003 under their yet-to-be-found new coach. Detroit - and we're talking real quickly here - could be a haven for former 49ers.

No matter what happens in San Francisco, don't be surprised to see at least a few key players currently on the 49ers roster to be wearing Lions uniforms during Mariucci's tenure in Detroit. It's not a matter of if it will happen; it's a matter of when.

Already, Mariucci has hired former 49ers linebackers coach Richard Smith to be Detroit's assistant head coach and linebackers coach. Andy Sugarman, Mariucci's offensive assistant in San Francisco, will hold the same position for Mooch in Detroit. Kevin Latrigue, the Niners' popular equipment manager the past five years, will join Detroit as an administrative assistant.

They won't be the only ones to leave. Perhaps neither of those three had a future in San Francisco, but then again, maybe they know something others don't and decided to get while the getting was good.

If nice-guy Mariucci is the vindictive type, he might take as many 49ers with him as he can. He already has found several willing to leave with him for a new start in Detroit, and one thing's for sure: Others will follow.

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