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De La Salle’s search is over; Mike Giannone, formerly at Dakota, is the school’s football coach

By: Tom Markowski, January 29, 2016, 8:31 am

Warren – Mike Giannone built Macomb Dakota into one of the state’s top football programs. Giannone will end his 18 seasons as Dakota’s head coach and take over the program at Warren De La Salle, State Champs has learned.

Giannone was offered the position earlier this week after Scott Merchant declined accepting the position on Jan. 19 after first accepting it on Jan. 15. Merchant has decided to stay at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley.

Giannone, 55, officially accepted the position at De La Salle on Friday.

Giannone took over the Dakota program in 1998. The Cougars were 5-4 that season and the next they qualified for the state playoffs for the first time winning two playoff games before losing to Clarkston in four overtimes, 57-56, in a Division 1 region final.

“I struggled with the decision,” Giannone said. “There were a lot of different emotions. I told the (Dakota players), one door opens as another closes.

“My dream was to come to Dakota and build something and leave it the same way. The cupboard is not bare. Our freshmen and junior varsity didn’t lose a game. I’m not bailing out. When you feel it’s time and the opportunity is there you take it. It’s something to explore and try.”

Dakota did not make the playoffs the following season and has made the playoffs every season since.

Dakota won back-to-back Division 1 titles in 206 and ’07, and has not made the finals before or since.

The Cougars were 9-3 this past season losing to Detroit Cass Tech, 16-10, in a region final.

Giannone’s career is 158-51.

Paul Verska retired as head coach at De La Salle following this past season and De La Salle administrators organized a committee to head the selection process. There were more than 50 applicants and that number was reduced to four finalists.

“De La Salle) is a faith-based community,” Giannone said. “It’s a group of kids who are close-knit. I was there on Monday morning and they had intramurals going on. You would have thought it was six o’clock in the evening. Those kids make a lot of sacrifices to be there.”

Giannone said he has not set his coaching staff in place but hopes to do it soon.

De La Salle opens the season at Lowell then plays Muskegon Mona Shores at Wayne State.