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Aliotti gets used to life on sideline

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Retirement from football coaching gives former Oregon Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti more time to hunt birds, hit golf balls and see his family.On Monday, as Oregon was opening training camp at the Ducks’ Football Performance Center, Nick Aliotti was with his wife, Kathy, baby-sitting their 2-year-old granddaughter, Nina.

Aliotti, who retired last December after 24 years as the Ducks’ defensive coordinator, will not be involved with a football team this fall for the first time in 48 years, and for the first time since he was a 12-year-old playing Pop Warner ball in Pittsburg, Calif.

“It was a little bit odd this morning,” Aliotti told me Monday via phone from his Eugene home. “The coaches went back to work last week. That was a little strange, but not as strange as this morning. It actually hit me that, wow, we’d be back in the big time getting ready (for the upcoming season). Media day. Meetings. Practice. It hit me a little bit.”

Eight months in, Aliotti, 60, is coping with retirement just fine, however.

“It’s been fantastic,” he says. “I’m doing a lot more golfing than I did before. I wish my game was getting totally better, but it’s not. It’s OK, though. I’m an 18 (handicap), but I’m going to get down to 15 by the end of September. I could compete enough to win some money. That’s good.”

Aliotti has kept busy with various pursuits in the months since ending his 38-year coaching career with Oregon’s 30-7 rout of Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

“I’ve done some hunting,” Aliotti says. “Went to Argentina and hunted birds for a week. Spent some time in Northern California hunting geese and duck. My wife and I went to Maui for 10 days and to Palm Springs for two weeks.

“I will say this: It’s amazing how busy I am, supposedly being retired. I’m trying to figure out how I ever had time to do anything when I was working. It seems busy.”

There has been quality time with his bride of 34 years, too.

“It’s been a good blend for us,” Aliotti says. “When we’re home, we read the paper. Have some coffee. Relax in the morning. We go our separate ways to work out. Then we sometimes run errands together. We meet back around 5 p.m. for dinner. Then it might be a movie or going out with people. It’s been awesome.”

Retirement also has meant more time with his children — Michael, 32, an IT rep, and Nicole, 28, who works for International Management Group. Both live in Eugene. Michael is expecting his second child, a boy, in September. “We’re all fired up about that,” Nick says.

Not that Aliotti hasn’t missed football and coaching already.

“There are three things I miss the most,” he says. “One, the interaction with the kids. Two, the strategy and time you spend with your defensive staff, planning together each week, strategizing. I’ll miss the chess game you play with the offensive coordinator on the other side on a weekly basis. And three, the exhilaration of the wins on Saturday. There is no drug or high or feeling like you get with a win after the kind of work you put in during the week with your guys.”

What won’t Aliotti miss?

“Recruiting,” he says quickly. “The hours, and the stress you put on yourself week to week to get the game plan to where it needs to be. Sometimes you don’t sleep like you want. As a coach, you’re concerned about injuries, players getting in trouble and all kinds of things. I don’t miss worrying about that stuff.”

Aliotti will get his football fix through his new duties as studio analyst for the Pac-12 Networks.

“I’ve already done five or six shows and really enjoyed it,” he says. “I was at Pac-12 media day in Los Angeles. I’m going to camp at Oregon on Thursday and Oregon State on Friday. I’ll be doing a lot of studio stuff on game days.”

It’s a natural avocation — “I call it a hobby,” he says — for the loquacious Aliotti, always a good quote and a favorite of the media during his time at Oregon.

“There were times when I was a little cantankerous, but I always tried to be fair and honest,” he says. “I’m going to have fun with it. It’ll keep me involved with football. I know the subject matter.”

Is Aliotti permanently retired from coaching?

“You never say never,” he says, “but I was pretty much sure when I walked away that I won’t coach again.”

Aliotti will remain in Eugene. He attended two spring practice sessions and has season tickets to Oregon games. But don’t expect to see him at Autzen Stadium unless he is working, at least for a while.

“I’m not sure I will go to a game this year and sit in the stands,” he says. “I don’t think that’s something I could do this year. I’m not ready for that.”

No question about his allegiances, though.

“I’ll always be a Duck,” he says. “I wish them nothing but success. I’m a Duck through and through.”

Aliotti has spoken with his successor, Don Pellum, with whom he coached for 21 years on the Oregon defensive side.

“A little bit,” he says. “Not a lot. I’d be more than happy to talk to DP when he has the time or wants to, but it’s none of my business now. It’s DP’s turn. (Oregon’s defensive coaches) know what they’re doing. They’ll do a great job. If DP wants my help, I’m there for him. But I’m not going to get in the way.”

There are plenty of other things to do. Golf courses to challenge. Birds to hunt. Grandchildren to spoil. Retirement isn’t such a bad thing if you’re Nick Aliotti.

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