Miami Hurricanes and Mario Cristobal: 'I think this is the job he probably always wanted'
Dennis Lavelle is thrilled to see one of his former players coming home.
Lavelle, who stepped away from coaching last year after 50 years on the sidelines, was Mario Cristobal’s head coach at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami from 1984-87.
Multiple outlets reported Monday morning that Cristobal informed University of Oregon players that he was leaving the program to become the head coach at Miami.
“He’s 51 years old and he’s going home,” Lavelle said Monday. “It doesn’t get any better than that. He is brutally loyal and I’m sure he struggled with leaving Oregon because of that. But he’s coming home.
“He’s a great guy. A really down to earth, honorable, honest, straight shooter. Tough. Loyal. He was that way when he was 16, he is that way now.”
Lavelle, Cristobal and fellow Columbus graduate Alex Mirabal — Oregon’s associate head coach/offensive line coach — have remained close over the years.
“It was one of those things,” Lavelle said. “Even more so with Alex Mirabal. Mario and I have stayed close since forever. I talk to him often. We’ve stayed connected and its been a really good friendship.”
Lavelle attended Oregon’s 35-28 win at Ohio State on Sept. 11. Cristobal made a beeline for Lavelle after the win and hugged him.
“My high school coach is in the stands, so you knew we had to win today because Coach Lavelle (Dennis Lavelle) don't play around,” Cristobal said in his postgame interview on Fox.
Cristobal told TCPalm in 2011 that Lavelle was a guy “you never want to let down.”
"He was the best coach I ever had," Cristobal said. "Coach Lavelle and (former Columbus junior varsity) coach Keith Green, I've been fortunate to play for some great coaches, but those two were the most demanding, the toughest, the most strict individuals I've ever been around.
"They took us in and gave us everything they had on a daily basis. They pushed us to point of complete exhaustion every day. But every day we wanted to come back because coach Lavelle and his staff made you better.”
Columbus reached the Class 5A regional playoffs — the equivalent of the regional championships — when Cristobal was a junior in 1986.
“He was a typical Columbus kid,” Lavelle said. “One of hundreds we had. Great player but he was a great person. We made a living on guys like Cristobal. Columbus was just full of guys like that. Do anything for you, loyal, honorable, just good people. You wanted to go to work every day because it was so much fun.”
Lavelle said he’ll have to go buy Hurricane season tickets now that Cristobal will be on the sidelines.
“I guess I have to buy them now before everyone else and their brother go,” Lavelle said. “I’ll get to see him and Alex. It’s a great Columbus connection. It’s a great honor for those two guys to try to resurrect the program.
“I know it was tough to leave, but he’s coming home. Who can criticize that? Who can fault him for that? And he returns to the culture. I think a lot of people underestimate the culture. I think this is the job he probably always wanted.”