Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia speaks to the media on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Allen Park.
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press

Paul Pasqualoni spent two seasons as Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator in the late 2000s, and with the Detroit Lions headed to South Beach this weekend, the first-year Lions assistant took a minute Tuesday to reflect on his time in Miami with his old boss, former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.

Sparano was one of the more beloved figures in the NFL until he died of heart disease in July, just before the start of training camp with the Minnesota Vikings.

“To be very honest, when I heard the news that morning, I think it was a Sunday morning, it just made me really feel sick and ill all over,” Pasqualoni said. “Knowing his wife, who is a wonderful person, and his two sons, and his daughter had just gotten married. Tony’s from Connecticut and I’m from Connecticut. I’d known him a long time.

“When he was the head coach at the University of New Haven, I was the head coach at Syracuse. We visited a great deal. We’d go down to Wooster Street and eat pizza. We loved pizza, the same spots in Connecticut. So we had a lot in common and he was a heck of a guy and I really appreciated the opportunity to go to Miami with him.”

Pasqualoni began his coaching career as a high school assistant and moved up to the college ranks at Southern Connecticut State and Western Connecticut State before joining the Syracuse staff as an assistant in 1987.

Sparano followed a similar path, going from New Haven offensive line coach to Boston University before eventually returning to New Haven as a head coach.

The two worked on the same NFL staff with the Dallas Cowboys in 2005-07, and when Sparano took over as Dolphins coach in 2008, he hired Pasqualoni as defensive coordinator.

In Miami, the two led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and AFC East title in their first season together, and went 7-9 in Year 2 before Pasqualoni was fired.

“That 2008 season was a very good season,” Pasqualoni said. “We won 11 and went to the playoffs. And I’ll always remember the commitment of the players on that team like Joey Porter, like Channing Crowder, like Vonnie Holliday, like Renaldo Hill, like Andre Goodman. They really embraced everything that Tony Sparano at the time was trying to do and we had a very successful season. So I think anytime in the NFL where you can win 11 games, I think you remember those seasons.”


Lions coach Matt Patricia was not specific Tuesday when asked if guard T.J. Lang remained in concussion protocol after last week’s bye. “T.J. is still going through process, but we’ll release all that injury information here tomorrow,” Patricia said. Lang, in his 10th NFL season, has suffered six documented concussions in his career.

Contact Dave Birkett: Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Download our Lions Xtra app for free on Apple and Android!


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