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Former coach: Patricia has the passion, work ethic for the job

Joe King knows new Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia better than most.

King was Patricia's head football coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where Patricia was a four-year letterman as a center and guard with the Engineers football team from 1992-95.

He was also Patricia's first boss in the coaching ranks when Patricia stayed on at RPI as a graduate assistant on King's staff in 1996 as he worked on his Master's degree. 

View photos of Matt Patricia. All images courtesy Associated Press.

King spent nearly 30 years at RPI (22 as head coach) before retiring in 2010 as the program's all-time winningest head football coach. He and Patricia have remained close friends over the years, and the two talk regularly.

After coaching that one season at RPI, Patricia went on to coach at Amherst and Syracuse before joining Bill Belichick's staff in New England in 2004. In New England, Patricia won three Super Bowl rings and has earned a reputation as one of the best young defensive minds in football as New England's defensive coordinator since 2012. 

But before all the headlines and all the accolades, Patricia got his coaching start under King at RPI, a private research university in New York. Thinking back to those four years Patricia spent busting his butt to become a better player, and that 1996 season on his coaching staff, King told he knew right away Patricia would have a knack for coaching if that's what he decided to do.

"Both his parents are teachers," King said. "He has that background and that's what coaching is all about. It's teaching. For a young person 22 or 23 years old, he certainly had a handle on coaching and a passion for it and a work ethic for it." 

King says Patricia has taken that teaching philosophy first instilled in him by his parents with him at every stop he's made. King believes it's that teaching mentality – along with Patricia's extreme intelligence – that's allowed him to be so successful in every coaching stop he's made on the way to Detroit.

"I think he has a lot of the qualities that are necessary to be a good head coach," King said. "You talk about how smart he is and his work ethic, and you can't be in a better place than working under (Bill) Belichick as far as learning how to be successful, but I think (Patricia) is a good teacher. 

"I'm not sure all head coaches are great teachers and I think that's necessary because that's what coaching is all about. You're trying to get these guys from one point to another, whether it's on the high school level or college level or pro level. You're trying to get them better."

That's exactly what Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he was looking for when he began the search for his next coach earlier this month -- Someone who can take a good team and make it great. 

"Leadership, situational football, willingness to adjust and adapt to scheme, to players, and really just someone that can lead this team with the players we have and the players that we will acquire, and put them in the best position to win," Quinn said.

Those traits have been the hallmark of Patricia's defense in New England the past six seasons, according to King.

"If you watch his teams, they get better," he said. "As the season goes on, this guy goes down or this will happen and so on, but he's able to make the adjustments and keep them headed in the right direction and at the end of the year, when you want to be playing your best football, they usually are."

Quinn hired Patricia to take an "above average" team based on its record the last two years to the next level. That's winning a NFC North title, winning in the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl.

Patricia's been good at getting the best out of his players as an assistant coach in New England. King is sure he'll do the same as Detroit's new head coach because he's one of the best true teachers of the game out there.

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