Sunday, February 2, 2003

Ditka interested in coaching Lions



By MIKE O'HARA
The Detroit News

ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Da Coach would like a shot at coaching the Detroit Lions.

Mike Ditka, coach of the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears, is endorsing Steve Mariucci for coach of the Lions. But Ditka would like a chance at the job if the Lions dont land Mariucci or another top candidate, such as Dennis Green.

"I would come in and talk to them, if they had a definite interest," Ditka said in a telephone interview from Cancun, where he had a speaking engagement.

"Just as a token and that stuff, no. I don't think there are a lot of places I'd like to coach anymore. Detroit is a little different, though. I played for years against them and coached for years against them. It's part of the Black and Blue division.

"It has a lot of the same ethnic makeup as Chicago - hard-working people. They want a hard-working football team."

Ditka, 63, has been out of coaching since 1999, when he was fired after three unsuccessful seasons as coach of the New Orleans Saints. Ditka returned to his radio job in Chicago, where he played tight end for the Bears and was coach from 1982-92, and a network position as a studio analyst for NFL games.

He'd like to get back to the sidelines - under the right conditions. Ditka considers himself a fall-back candidate, and he is campaigning for Mariucci to accept the Lions offer.

"Steve's a good friend and a good coach," Ditka said. "I still consider it a done deal. I think they'll do the deal."

If nothing else, Ditka and Lions President Matt Millen would make for a lively radio team. It was on Ditka's radio show last year that Millen made his infamous devout coward comment about an unnamed Lion.

"We'd kill 'em," Ditka said, laughing. "We'd have everybody fired."




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