COLLEGEVILLE, MINN. – You never knew what St. John’s football coach John Gagliardi would be doing to occupy himself if you dropped by during the offseason. I would do that on occasion when in need of a column, although there was never a chance to walk in on this:
John listening to tapes of himself singing on his karaoke machine.
There were several conversations with a few of Gagliardi’s closest confidantes in recent days, after his death last Sunday. It took Jerry Haugen, the gent who spent 41 years as a player and then defensive assistant with Gagliardi, to provide the shocker:
“Some time in the 1990s, John discovered karaoke, and then be bought a machine. He recorded somewhere at his house, I guess, and one day he waved me into the office and said, ‘Listen to this.’
“And it was John on karaoke. Usually, it was Sinatra songs or religious songs. It went on for a couple of years. John thought it was great.’’
Gagliardi’s wife, Peg, was employed as the secretary in the athletic department. Her office was across the hall from John.
“I walked into Peg’s office one day and there was music playing,’’ Haugen said. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute. That’s John.’
“Peg was in there listening to John. No greater love has a wife ever shown to a husband than to listen to John on karaoke.’’
Glen Mason was hired by the Gophers after the 1996 season and soon took a drive to Collegeville to get to know the Johnnies’ legendary winner of football games. Mason told Gagliardi anecdotes on Twin Cities radio last week, and repeated them in a phone conversation.
“Our center Greg Eslinger was being awarded the Rimington Trophy in 2005 in Omaha, and John was also getting an award at the banquet,’’ Mason said. “We had a private plane to get there, and we invited John to ride along.
“We get on the plane, John’s looking around, and then he starts reaching for his billfold, to buy a Pepsi and a snack. I said, ‘No, John, it’s free.’ He acted amazed by that. It was all an act, of course. He liked to play the role, but John was dumb like a fox.”
College football notes:
• Phil Fleck has recruited himself an important admirer in Cambria owner Marty Davis. Text at 11:55 a.m.: “R u watching the game.’’ Strong indication Gophers were impressing.
• No sign of Johnnies red uniform pants on Saturday vs. St. Thomas. Gagliardi’s team wore them once in 2012, lost 48-17 at Augsburg, and John wanted the pants burned.
• Mike Grant became the 10th Johnnie to be given the Bob Basten leadership award at halftime on Saturday. His résumé included 11 state titles at Eden Prairie. Eleven.