49ers’ Kyle Shanahan and the ‘family business’: On fathers, sons and outperforming the perception of nepotism
Just, not that business.When Mike Golic Sr. finished playing with the Miami Dolphins in 1993, after 115 games, 11.5 career sacks and one local Emmy Award — for a spot he did on Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham’s television show — he imagined he would put to use, in some capacity, the business and finance degree he’d earned at Notre Dame.Instead, being smart and loquacious and slightly experienced, he discovered the opportunity to begin a broadcasting career that burgeoned at ESPN, with roles on “NFL 2Night” and “NFL Live” and as a game analyst on college football telecasts. In 2000 he teamed with sportscaster Mike Greenberg on the massively successful “Mike & Mike” morning program on ESPN Radio. They did the show together for 17 years.MORE: Andy Reid among sports’ top 25 coaches without a championshipGolic Jr. intended to follow his father’s path to the NFL, playing at Notre Dame and starting all 13 games as a senior for a team that reached the BCS championship game. That pro football career did not develop as planned. He was cut by the Steelers, cut twice by the Saints and cut by teams in lesser leagues. Not long after, it all became clear he was better suited to what his father does for a living now.Now they appear every morning together on the “Golic and Wingo” show, starting at 6 a.m. ET and running four hours through the morning on ESPN Radio and televised by ESPNews. Golic Sr. jokes that “Golics and Wingo” might be a more accurate name for the program.“Who wouldn’t want to be able to work with their kid?” Golic Sr. told Sporting News. “To see them reach their dream school, make it to a title game and then be able to work with them — it’s a dream come true. For a parent working with a kid, it’s fantastic.“You would think there would have been a little more, ‘Oh, father, what can I learn from you?’ He didn’t do that at all. All he does is disagree and yell and call me an old man. That part is a bummer. I’m glad he does it, because if he has a stance that’s different than mine, he’s willing to share it. You can’t just be a yes-man.”As Kyle Shanahan leads the 49ers into Super Bowl 54, we can look around the world of sports and see many circumstances in which children were drawn to the same vocations as their famous parents.Jim L. Mora coached the Falcons, Seahawks and UCLA from 2004 until 2017, although his father Jim E. Mora — who was in charge of the Vikings and Colts between 1986 and 2001 — was a more frequent participant in the PLAYOFFS. Matt was especially interested in securing a grad assistant position at Villanova. He asked his mother if she could rent a car for him — as he wasn’t yet 25 — so he could drive down to Providence to try and meet coach Jay Wright. Fran’s only contribution was to help arrange a credential.Wright told Matt that most of his staff members come from within — former players and team managers — but to keep in touch. Fran encouraged Matt to try building relationships with the assistant coaches, and that they might help persuade Wright to hire him.At the 2017 Final Four, Fran served as master of ceremonies at the Naismith Awards luncheon. Wright and Wildcats star Josh Hart were among the nominees. Matt got the chance to sit at the Villanova table and deepened the connection. Eventually, the staff members helped talk Wright into giving Matt a shot. Matt lived for two years in a dorm, serving as a grad assistant and earning an MBA from Villanova in the process. In his first year, he helped the Wildcats win the 2018 NCAA championship.That’s right: One year in the business, and already he had a ring.He understands coaching might not always be so rewarding. He was introduced to the challenges of the business at a very early age, when his father left New Mexico after those three tumultuous seasons.“When Meg told Matt I was fired,” Fran told SN, “he started crying because he thought I was on fire.”***When Mike Shanahan went searching for an offensive coordinator to run the Redskins’ attack in 2010, he hired a 31-year-old who’d worked with the Buccaneers and Texans in various capacities on that side of the football. That the candidate’s name was Kyle Shanahan seemed not to be coincidental.By the time they’d spent four years together — only one of those ending in the playoffs — Jason LaCanfora wrote this for CBSSports.com:“Conversations with several people within the organization have revealed a similar perception of Kyle Shanahan as someone who was empowered and enabled by his father, spending an abundance of time in his father’s office, given a wide swath of power and rubbing many people — players, fellow coaches and members of football operations — the wrong way.”So the perception was: entitled, maybe not that talented and, by the way, overpaid. Kyle was scheduled to earn $1.5 million in 2014, according to LaCanfora, even though he was likely to be fired after 2013. And he was, along with his father.Shanahan got another shot as offensive coordinator with the Browns in 2014, and the team scored fewer points than the season before. And he got still another opportunity the next year in Atlanta. In his second season there, the Falcons made the Super Bowl and nearly won it, leading the 49ers to hire him as head coach. The Falcons haven’t been the same since he left.So, yesterday’s “nepotism” leads to today’s “offensive genius.”“Connections happen all the time. We know that,” Golic Sr. told SN. “When I was calling games at ESPN when I first started, the stage manager who was working one of the games was someone who went to school where the game was. She asked, ‘Could you help me get an interview?’ And she was good enough that they gave her a job.“For us, it happened to be the Golic name that could help get Mike’s foot in the door. Then they have to prove themselves. Especially in this situation. If Mike wasn’t really good on the air, there’s no way he could last.”MORE: Myth-busting worst narratives from Super Bowl 54Justin Craig, now the senior director of programming and operations at ESPN Radio, was working as program director of ESPN NY 98.7 when Mike Jr.’s NFL dream died. Golic Jr. — who majored in film and television at Notre Dame and created YouTube content about Irish football from the inside — wanted a broadcasting career. He knew Craig from his days as one of the original producers on “Mike & Mike” nearly two decades earlier and offered his services in any role the station could find.“This is where the nepotism works into it: People knew dad, and between Justin and my dad, I leaned on them,” Golic Jr. told SN. “I did weekend radio shows, fantasy football, 9-to-1 on Sunday mornings. I was picking up work wherever I could.” Eventually, that led to ESPN’s national radio network in Connecticut, where Mike Jr. grew up.“I’ve been here five years now, and in that time period I’ve gotten to cover college football on terrestrial and digital, college lacrosse, the spelling bee,” Golic Jr. said. “The possibilities seem endless, so I’m exploring what they’ll let me do. Hopefully you get to the point where you get good enough where you can focus on one thing.”Although his career did not include working with or for his father, and though Fran encouraged his sons to work their way into the business on their own, Matt was born with the Fraschilla name. The cache that comes with that is not inconsequential — but neither is the scrutiny. It’s an inescapable part of the business, but it’s more intense for one with an established name.“I always love when people tell me my dad does a great job on TV. It’s flattering,” Matt said. “It’s hard to get out of his reach because he just knows so many people.“I didn’t want to go somewhere that they did him a favor. It’s hard to get away from the fact that I’m his son. But it’s a great thing. I’m the luckiest person in the world to have a mentor like that who I can talk to any day, any hour of the day. It’s tricky because you appreciate your last name. But you want to have your own mark. I’m trying to build my own reputation and then try to climb the coaching ladder. You have to appreciate what it is and then put in the work to develop your own reputation.”Fran and Matt talk several times a week. Dad frequently will watch just bits and pieces of Villanova’s games. Even though he says, “one of the greatest joys of being a coach when your sons go into the profession is you get to live vicariously through their experience,” he also says, “I don’t want to experience the agony I did when I was coaching.” (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/59/3e/kyle-shanahan-012920-getty-ftrjpg_l2zbttx309tr1d21u2h9d1ec3.jpg?t=-219157705&w=500&quality=80 Mike Golic played eight seasons as a defensive tackle in the National Football League, launching that career well before there even was a Mike Golic Jr. As Junior was born, then grew up, then grew into a 6-4, 300-pound offensive lineman, the dream always was for him to enter the family business.And so he has. Like his father Bob, Aaron Boone played over a decade in Major League Baseball and, also like his father, took what he learned in that time and turned it into a career as a manager. Bob never had a winning season in six tries with the Royals and Reds, but Aaron earned at least 100 victories in each of his first two seasons in charge of the Yankees.Houston Cougars men’s basketball assistant Kellen Sampson was a walk-on player for his father Kelvin at Oklahoma, then followed him into basketball coaching. He worked as a graduate assistant for his father at Indiana and then as a grad assistant for Jeff Capel at Oklahoma before getting assistant coaching jobs at Stephen F. Austin and Appalachian State. He is now in line to succeed his dad whenever Kelvin, 64, retires — which may not be soon, given the Cougars’ recent success.There are many more examples, and it is easy to understand why all were seduced: The money generally is good, and the opportunity to stay involved with a sport they have loved since childhood can become an obsession. There is a price to be for this particular addiction, though. The public eye can be unforgiving, and the concept of a normal life must be abandoned. Hours are long and erratic; time spent with family is sacrificed regularly.Oh, and there’s that charge, which lurks like a strong safety waiting for the football to be thrown anywhere near: nepotism.When Mike Golic Sr. uses the word, he spits it out as though it tastes of Brussels sprouts.“If nepotism worked so well,” he told SN, “my son would have had a 10-year career in the NFL.”***During the four years Matt Fraschilla played basketball at Harvard, his father, Fran, frequently worked a side trip to Cambridge into his travels as a television analyst at ESPN. During Matt’s junior year, they went to lunch at a favorite spot, Legal Sea Foods, and it was there he broke the difficult news.All the plans Matt had concocted to use his Ivy League education in the same way as so many of his classmates would — making gobs of money on Wall Street — no longer were in force. Instead, he would become a college basketball coach. Just like his dad.“I said, ‘Why do you want to coach?’ And he said, ‘I just love being around the office,’” Fran told SN. “He loved his teammates, but he loved his coaches just as much.”Matt had torn his ACL two games into his junior season. It was especially devastating, as Harvard star Siyani Chambers had blown out his knee during an offseason workout, creating an opportunity for Matt to earn significant playing time. That was wrecked just a minute after he’d entered a game at Providence.As Matt looked for ways to stay involved in the program and help his team while rehabbing the knee, he began to spend more time in the Harvard basketball office with coach Tommy Amaker and his assistants. It was during that year he came to understand what he’d miss if he left the game.“I always blame Tommy,” Fran said with a chuckle. “I tell him, ‘He just loved being around you guys.’ That’s how the quest started.”Fran Fraschilla has enjoyed a four-decade career in the game, from his time as an assistant coach at Rhode Island, Ohio University, Ohio State and Providence through his years as a head coach at Manhattan, St. John’s and New Mexico. Those times weren’t always easy.He was a smashing success at Manhattan, where he made two NCAA Tournaments in four seasons and pulled off an upset stunner in the 1995 NCAA Tournament against Oklahoma. He reinvigorated the St. John’s program, but was fired after two seasons, largely because he chose to accept an interview request from Arizona State. He got another chance at New Mexico and averaged 18 wins over three seasons; failing to reach the NCAA Tournament led to his resignation.MORE: Mea culpa, 49ers: An apology for doubting San Fran’s Super Bowl runFran got an offer to work for ESPN soon afterward, and now has been with the network for nearly two decades. He had offers and opportunities to return to the game as a head coach or elite assistant, but ultimately recognized his broadcasting life gave him more time to spend with his wife Meg as they watched sons Matt and James grow into men.James, as well, has entered the family business. He spent four years as a walk-on at Oklahoma, then went to work in the G League with the Maine Red Claws. He spent a year as a grad assistant under Tom Crean at Indiana, returned to the G League in Utah and ultimately — in part because of his tireless video work for Jeff van Gundy’s USA Basketball World Cup qualifying team — gained a job as a video associate with the Orlando Magic.“The interesting thing about Matt and James is, they had to kill themselves to become good high school players,” Fran said. “Everything they did around the game was a grind. I always made sure they understood how hard it is to get good at the game. Neither one was born with a silver pair of Nikes.”At the time Matt chose to enter coaching, he began attempting to build a network. He wrote letters to Chris Collins at Northwestern, Scott Drew at Baylor and many others. He spoke with Penn coach Steve Donahue and Brown coach Mike Martin, also Ivy League graduates who took the road less traveled … into hoops. (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/7e/3d/split-jim-e-mora-jim-l-mora-040916-getty-ftrjpg_1tlcx6r3iqhhi1dq7wekpokgxk.jpg?t=-74982845&w=500&quality=80 Playing for Amaker and working for Wright has given Matt Fraschilla an excellent start in the coaching business, but it was Fran who gave him a start in basketball.“He’s been blessed to have two incredible mentors,” Fran said.Actually, though, Matt had three.