We've been inundated with people sending us memories and just general kind words about Dan "Lake" Staffieri, who passed away last Thursday at the age of 85. He had been suffering from cancer of the bladder.
We invite you to click here and send your thoughts and memories. We'll be updating this article throughout the day and over the next several days!
I've had a lot of coaches in my life, but there have been few that have impacted my life, values, work ethic, outlook on life or what makes me...me! This man is one of them! I've had a folder full of Coach Staffieri's locker room slogans in the back of a filing cabinet since 1989. I pulled them out this morning and read through them for the first time in ages...some of my favorites:
What you do tomorrow will never make up for what you lost today.
Anything almost right is wrong.
Success depends on the functioning of the glands -- sweat glands.
The fellow who is pulling the oars has little time to rock the boat.
When a man is wrapped up in himself the package is usually pretty small.
Character is made by what you stand for, reputation by what you fall for.
Do better than your best!
Appreciation of the Mental!
I could go on and on... and so could Coach Lake. You will live on in our hearts forever! Lumpy, I could not have said it better, thanks! Every player I coach will get to know Lake through my life's work! All the IVY Championships aside, thanks for everything you did and still do for the Penn Quakers on and beyond Franklin Field! Your funeral was truly a celebration of your impact on our lives! YOU did better than YOUR best!
Thomas C. Gizzi C'89
Captain, 1988 Ivy League Football Champions
I was extremely saddened to not be able to attend the services for my buddy and colleague Coach Lake. My heart goes out to his wife Suzanne "Buttercup." I also would like to extend my condolences to the coaching staff at PENN, especially Rick Ulrich and Steve Downs. You were both like sons to Lake. I know how much you cared for him and how hard the last few months have been for you. Take comfort in knowing the man is in a better place who will always shine down upon your lives through memories. The memories I have from my time at PENN always seem to come back to one of Lake's sayings. Not just his words, but his actions will forever be remembered by so many who have crossed his path. From his self proclaimed "sausage" fingers with a ring on each of them, to his falling asleep in the meeting room or on the bus, it will be hard to find a man with the charisma, class, and heart of Dan Staffieri. Rest in Peace, my friend.
Lew Acquarulo, associate head coach at Trinity College
I am saddened to hear about the passing of Coach Staffieri ... but I feel very blessed that I had the opportunity to be touched and motivated by such a wonderful human being. I played football at Penn for two years, spent significant time with Coach as a freshman (he was our running backs coach) and was on the 1988 Ivy championship team as a sophomore. Since graduating from Wharton back in 1991, I've had several professional and educational life transitions that I would categorize as a personal quest "in search of ...", so to speak. I went on to careers as a healthcare consultant, earning an MBA from Kellogg, becoming an investment banker, then entrepreneur and now pursuing my ultimate passion which is creative writing in various media and entertainment formats, recently enrolling in Full Sail University's Master of Fine Arts/Creative Writing degree program. I'm telling you all of this because it has taken me 41 years to finally "figure out" the thing that fuels me, thus realizing the true magnanimity, inspiration and beneficence that radiates from a person like Coach. It's interesting the way the universe works ... I was reading and analyzing the Godfather screenplay this morning for class, and one of the lines of Vito Corleone started out with one of Coach Staffieri's frequent and loud declaratives -- i.e., "Andiamo! or "Let's Go!" I thought fondly and laughed out loud about Coach, who nicknamed me, "Vaughn-ee", and decided to do a Google search. I haven't seen Coach for probably 20 years, so seeing the article about his passing caused me to pause and stirred an indescribable array of intense emotions and humility. Coach was so enthused about us and our success ... and I guess at the time, college was like drinking through a fire hose and I was definitely a pretty wide-eyed kid. Thus, I never thought to ask Coach to tell me about his history when I was with him. So finding out that he was a former Marine, WWII Vet, NCAA Football National Champion, etc. before I met him places his selflessness, passion and contributions into even greater perspective for me. For this talented man to give his life so passionately to spur our dreams is a true testament to his greatness and example. Anyway, I apologize for rambling on, but I felt compelled to send you the above reflections which I have and always will treasure for life.
I just wanted to extend my condolences to the Staffieri family. I was saddened to read the news. As a player (Brown '00) and coach at Dartmouth, Brown and now Princeton, I have only the fondest memories of Coach Lake. His love of football was evident, but what I admired most was that he made it clear that he loved his wife, "Buttercup, first. As a coach with a young family I will always remember that. Also want everyone to know that Coach Lake's coaching at the Dartmouth Football Camp would make Vince Lombardi take note. For verification just ask Coach Dunn. I will try to show some "pepper and go" at practice today.
James Perry, Princeton offensive coordinator
I was a student of his at Lenape High School. Some kids are athletic, some -- not so. I was less than not so. He never gave up on me or any of his not so students. He always encouraged me to do better and keep working at it. His positive attitude was contagious, his sayings infectious. I never forgot him.
I-V-Y Champs! I am disappointed and sorrowful that I am unable to attend the funeral and honorary functions for "LAKE." I am experiencing a slight setback in my recovery from a total knee replacement and have been advised not to travel at this time. In 1981, when I was hired as the head football coach at the University of Pennsylvania; Dan Staffieri was one of my first hires. Hiring Dan was one of the best decisions I made in my coaching career. Dan proved to be the real "Spirit" of our football team. He seemed always able to inspire the players -- be it on the practice field or during the game. When the team was struggling, his comment that "Setbacks pave the way for comebacks" helped us to forge ahead. In 1985, after winning three consecutive Ivy League Championships, "LAKE" set the tone and goal for the team -- "Keep it alive in '85." Dan's enthusiasm, winning attitude, and never-ending support were an integral part of the success of Penn football. There is no one of whom I was more proud and respectful. I was privileged to call him my colleague and my friend. He will be missed. "DO BETTER THAN YOUR BEST!!"
Jerry Berndt, Penn Head Football Coach 1981-85
When I heard that we have lost one of the greatest men to ever walk among us this weekend, my immediate reaction was sadness. But as the weekend went on I found myself smiling, even laughing, remembering all that Coach Lake was to me and my family. Other than my father, he is the greatest man I have ever had the privilege to meet, and as I prayed for "Buttercup" and his family, a thought entered my mind -- although Coach Staffieri's passing is a tragedy for everyone who had the honor to know him, it might turn out to be a great thing for the rest of the world. For if there has ever been a soul that can motivate the heavens to shine down on this planet, it would be LAKE. Godspeed, my friend.
Mark Stewart, Penn football staff 1986-2005
Like a few of the other guys who have written, I first got to know Coach as a freshman in 1979. During one of our practices on River Field a squirrel got caught in one of the transformers adjacent to the field -- the thing blew up with a mini mushroom cloud. Everyone was looking around, not sure what had happened. At just that time, a helicopter came overhead. Without missing a beat Coach said "don't worry boys, he's one of ours -- give him three and get back to work." He never let any of us forget (even those of us who had to give up football due to injuries or other reasons) that we were part of the resurgence of Penn's winning tradition. When we won the Moose game in 1979 he insisted the victory was not complete until we stole the mounted moose head from the varsity locker room. The look of pride he gave myself and a couple of other guys when we brought it into the freshman locker room was worth the beating I got from the varsity guys during the next scrimmage we had with them. When I came back to work at Penn in 1986, I was walking across campus on a Friday in the fall at lunch time when I heard this familiar voice over a megaphone: "Hey, Jim Bean! How You Doin? I-V-Y Champ!" From 1988-98 I ran the University's mail service. Coach would come by every summer with his personalized letters to all the incoming players, each with its own special message of encouragement. He'd ask me about the other guys from Boston in the 1979 class: Johnny Sylva, Jamie Keough, Steve Rubin, he never forgot anyone and always had a positive word. His famous line for keeping one humble was "give him three" (handclaps) anymore and his head will get big." Every Commencement, Coach would be at the front gate of Franklin Field welcoming every graduate with a smile, a word of congratulations and encouragement as if they were the captain of the football team. This fall Fridays on campus will be a little quieter, and on Saturdays the sidelines a little vacant. All of us who knew him can never forget the positive way he impacted all of our lives - thanks to him, doing "better than your best" has become a way of life for many of us touched by this wonderful man. Rest in Peace Coach -- See you in church!
Jim Bean C'83
Director of Labor Relations - Facilities & Real Estate Services University of Pennsylvania
I remember Coach Lake from my days as a senior at St Joe's Prep, when I wanted to be a punter and placekicker. His enthusiasm for the game and the players was contagious and inspired everyone to be better than they thought they could be -- and especially when playing for the Prep in the Catholic League where every other school was at least twice as large! At 115 lbs I could hardly be called an offensive threat, and despite encouragement from Coach Lake and Army's Pollard (who became my mentor) my days as a football player were short-lived. When I came to Penn in 1953 I decided to play soccer, and have always wondered what it would have been like to punt or placekick inside of Franklin Field.
Richard "Goose" Tyrrell W'57
The first time I met him he introduced himself as "Coach Staffieri, like Lake Erie." He knew I was from Buffalo, and just like that I had a friend. We ate many dinners at the training house together my freshman year, talking about Italian food. It's not that what we had was bad, but that he made it better with conversation. He will be missed but not forgotten.
John Montesanti C'83
Coach Staffieri was a great coach, man and friend. I think of him often, and his motivational sayings and messages still inspire me even after 20 years. He will be missed, and he and his family will always remain in my thoughts and prayers.
Kal Gibron C'89
I think God put a few people on this earth for everyone else to enjoy, and I think Lake was one of those people. Lake is probably the only man I know who lived for 85 years and never created an enemy. Though we wish we could keep him here forever, I am sure there is a football team in Heaven that needs him more than we do. I love you Lake, and I am sure you will have all of Heaven doing the Penn Roundup in no time.
Steve Moroney C'02
When Coach Bagnoli told me of Lake's passing I was deeply saddened with the news. As time passed after some reflection, I can only think of Coach Lake in wonderful memories of a man who all of us would like to be. Dan was a man of conviction, and he was always there for the Penn players. He always brought a smile to the coaches, players and administrators faces, and he was the face of Penn football when I was there coaching. Over the years, as a football coach, I have found that there are few places like the University of Pennsylvania, and I have appreciated my stay there. Dan was a big part of why I have such fond memories of Penn football. He will be sorely missed by the coaches and players, and we can all remember him in fond fashion. Dan pumped us all up, whether he was assisting the players with the pre-game stretch or helping with recruiting. Someone with his energy level and love of Penn is hard to find and duplicate. We will all miss him tremendously. As a football coach, I hope I can last as long as Lake did. He never quit and always had the player's hearts in mind. We will never forget what he did for Penn football.
John Audino, Union College head football coach
For me, Lake was the heart of Penn football. He was ever present to lift your spirits with a kind word or a patented, "How you doin'?" His heart and vibrant personality resonated with each and every person to have known him. Lake was always encouraging you to "do better than your best," a subtle and catchy theme which stayed in your mind and to this day keeps you striving. On those occasions when your best might not have been good enough, "setbacks pave the way for comebacks" drew you from the funk of disappointment to get back off the mat to try anew. Part of Lake's gift was being able to convey universal truths, with the honesty and integrity of a man with great character and heart. I wish the best to "Buttercup" and the rest of his family. Lake will live on in the hearts and minds of all of us lucky enough to have known him. He will be missed, but never forgotten!
Jesse Simonin W'00
Coach Staffieri was always saying something. But it was what he was giving that is his legacy. Wherever Lake went, smiles bloomed. Whatever Lake wore drew double-takes. Whenever Lake was in the room, the room brightened. And it was always about more than football. It was about life. Dan Staffieri was so much more than just a coach. He cared more about your spirit and resilience as a person than your strength or finesse on a particular play. He cared just as much about your attitude and outlook for tomorrow as he did about your performance and outcome of today. He cared most about your success and winning on the inside. Coach Lake had a special gift to touch hearts and move minds. To uplift. To infuse. To inspire. And he did it like no other. His way. With all that cosmic spunktacular chutzpah. The time and talent and tenacity he devoted to this passion were remarkable. Way beyond the colorful outfits, much deeper than the game-day antics, and far wider than his raspy voice could travel, there was LOVE. Unconditional, motivational, my-way love from a friend, mentor, coach, and beacon. From Lake. And we are all blessed to have received it. I will never forget his favorite rallying stance -- hunkered down with knees bent in a slight crouch, arms extended out wide with both fist clinched as if every muscle in his whole body was flexed; and there he was yelling, hollering, shouting, chanting, and repeating something...one of his multitude of snazzy/sharp/cute/catchy/finicky/funny/infectious/brilliant/old-school/avante-garde cheers, slogans, mantras, or morals. And it was in that moment, when Coach Dan Staffieri was doing better than his best, that it almost didn't matter exactly what he was saying, because it was what he was giving -- and what you felt -- that screamed thru. Thank you Lake, for all the love. We will miss you dearly. And we love you too.
Sundiata Rush W '93
It is very hard for me to put my feelings about Coach Lake into words. All I know is he is beloved by more people than anyone I've ever met, and I still think he loved us all even more. My first memory of Lake was during two-a-days freshman year. We were down on Bower Field, and it was hot. I had just come off the field after having played 20 minutes of scout O-line against the 2002 starting defense -- the defense that wound up leading the Ivy League in scoring defense, rushing, total and pass efficiency defense, sacks, fourth-down conversions and opponent first downs. I came off the field and I saw Lake holding out a full water bottle, saying "Have some cold water - I WANT you to have it." He treated everyone the same -- with love and respect. Lake made whomever he was talking to feel like he was the best football player Franklin Field had ever seen. I'll miss him a lot.
Don Snyder, C'06
Captain 2005 team
I'll never forget Coach Lakes's motivational stories and corny jokes. (Lake: "Hey Crum, did you know I made the honor roll in College?" Me: "Really, Lake? I never knew." Lake: "Oh sure...yes, your honor! No, your honor!") In particular, since he knew I was an NROTC midshipman, he would sometimes find me on the sidelines and tell me stories of his military service in World War II before he went to college. He had served as a Marine, and had witnessed some of the fiercest fighting that had occurred in the Pacific theater against the Japanese. Incredible stuff. Those stories were always an inspiration to me during my own service, and his positive outlook on life is a lesson that stays with me to this day. His spirit will be missed.
I was returning to Penn as the visiting sports information director for Georgetown University in 2007, and I bumped into Coach Lake the morning of our game as I was walking around my old offices at Weightman Hall. Coach Lake saw me...I don't think he remembered my name, but he knew I worked there and asked me what office, etc. It was great that he would take the time do that and for me, now older, to learn more about him. We were getting done and he had to go, and he asked me what year I had interned at Penn. When I told him 1994, he smiled and said "Back for more in '94." It was classic Coach Lake. I've met a lot of truly great people in college athletics in 15 years from working at St. Bonaventure, Penn, Florida, Siena, St. John's and Georgetown...and there was no one like Coach Lake.
Mike "Mex" Carey
Sports Information Director, Georgetown University
Coach Lake was the guy you want in your "bunker." When Coach Staffieri encouraged us to "do better than your best," he also gave us the confidence that we would.
A light has been snuffed out, and there will never be another like Dan Staffieri. I had the honor and privilege of working with Coach Lake for six years. But as anyone knows, once you meet Coach Lake you are more than colleagues, you are friends. After I departed Penn, we remained in touch and I cherished all those moments over the years that I shared with Lake, who had the ability to make everyone feel like they were contributing to the program, whether they were in athletic communications or the electrician at Franklin Field. My favorite Lake moment was at a Roman High School football banquet at which Lake was an honoree. To the side of the room there was a table full of Penn Football alumni. I was the lone representative of the current staff. It was a nice enough banquet, with high school students nervously and quietly giving their speeches. Then it was Lake's turn. If you ever had the honor of attending a banquet with Lake, you know what was next as he blew his whistle into the microphone and started the "Penn Roundup." He chanted I-V-Y and then came our turn as all guests at the Penn table rose and yelled "CHAMPS!" Repeat two more times. Then Lake went with another classic: "Do Better Than Your - BEST!" And so on. The room was in shock, not quite sure what had hit them. But just like all of us at the Penn table, they joined the Lake fraternity that day, and their lives were a little better for it as well.
Associate Director of Athletic Communications, 2000-05; Director of Football Operations 2005-06
I had the privilege to call Coach my first college coach from the fall of 1978, back when there was a freshman football team! Coach Staffieri actually made practice fun and something we all looked forward to, whether on River Field or occasionally on Franklin Field! Besides the "Breakdowns" and famous locker room sayings, and seeing him in the Penn Football Helmet riding along Locust Walk, my fondest memories were during camp in the summer of 1979 and 1980 -- his wake-up calls and morning weather reports to 80 guys in bunks all in one room! Coach Lake is the only one who could perform such "assistant coach" duties and receive laughs and cheers from exhausted, beat-up college football players! He is truly one in a million and one of the finest men I have met in my 49 years. As I told Buttercup recently, Coach now patrols the sidelines of the biggest, best field there is with The Head Coach! Gone but certainly not forgotten -- Coach, I will miss you but never forget you. Thanks for all those great memories including your performance at the Marine Scholarship Ball a few years ago.
Tony Liberatore W'82
Varsity Football 1979-81
Coach Lake was a remarkable human being. He was one of those very few people who, no matter what, could bring a smile to your face. I remember on the Fridays before game days, he would ride around campus on his giant Penn motorized helmet cheering through his megaphone and hyping up the student body. He especially loved to stop players he would see in the middle of Locust to join in on the cheers. One Friday I was eating at Houston Market before our final practice of the week, and Coach Lake enteed into the middle of a large group of students. Before I had the chance to sneak away, the entire dining hall had this message broadcast to them through his speaker: "CAPTAIN ESTRADA NOW HAS A SPECIAL MESSAGE ABOUT THE GAME!" I turned around awkwardly to see the entire hall silently staring at Coach Lake while he handed me the megaphone and said to me: "make it inspirational." He was truly the greatest promoter and motivator that any program in the country could ever have. The legacy he leaves behind is larger than life, and his imprint will be happily carried by us for all our lives. I will always cherish the handwritten letters he would send the captains before the start of the season and after graduation, and I will miss his voice on the sidelines yelling out the names of the offensive line as we "block and clear the area." Didn't we?
Sean Estrada W '07
Captain, 2006 Penn football team
My name is Tom McHugh, a former teammate of Coach Lake, a fine man who would give his shirt to anyone who was in need. Honesty and integrity was his game. I should know; I first met Dan in Sept. of 1947 and stayed in touch with him over the years. The McHugh family will really miss our real friend.
Tom McHugh, Maryland '51
Coach Dan "Lake" Staffieri continues to be an inspiration to me and so many. Since my graduation, I have had a "Do Better Than Your Best" handscribed and copied "poster" for ongoing encouragement. It is in my closet such that I can see quite often. It will remain. My first recollection was Coach Lake teaching our Freshman team how to put on a jock strap. I thought, "who is this guy?" However, it was indicative of who this "teacher and encourager" was. He cared about everything. Doing Your Best in all things. Over the last few years, I reached out to converse with Coach Lake. He remained the ardent fan and unending cheerleader for all that a Penn Football player did on the field and off the field during the college years and after. I was calling to encourage him, but he certainly encouraged me more. He was the model of dedication and determination he spurred us to be. Coach Lake, you will be so missed. There will never be another like you.
Don "Gator" Gates W'92
By the time I joined the Penn coaching staff I had met Coach Lake several times, mostly at the South Jersey Brooks-Irvine banquets, which Dan loved with a passion. I always remembered Lake from his trademark outfits and his rings which he always wore with PENN PRIDE. When I joined Coach Bagnoli's staff I truly got to know Coach Lake, and I am happy to say a very strong friendship was formed. I remember the first time I saw a roundup, I was amazed. It was great to see how the players on the team responded to Dan and how much they truly loved him. I am very proud of the time I spent as part of the Quaker football tradition. I developed great relationships with the players I was fortunate enough to coach and the outstanding coaches I was working with, but Lake was truly someone special. I am a better coach for having been around Lake, and I would certainly give him three with extra credit and supercharged. Dan truly did better than his best everyday.
Andy Coen, Lehigh head football coach
I was very saddened to hear about the passing of Coach Lake. Some of my fondest memories of Penn involve him. I will never forget seeing Lake on numerous occasions riding around campus during football season in the Penn football helmet golf cart, drumming up support for the team and encouraging students to attend the games with his megaphone. He also always lit up the entire room at dinner time in the Tea House when he would come in, screaming his favorite sayings and getting a rousing response in unison. HOW YOU DOING?! OH VERY WELL! And, of course, Lake was always a welcome timeout from my practices with the soccer team when he would visit to rally the team through his motivational exercises to "do better than your best." You could never miss Lake, whether he was hanging around Weightman Hall, the athletic fields and gyms, or riding through campus. He was always dressed in Penn colors and sporting all of his championship rings. Although he will be missed, he is and will continue to be an inspiration. Thank you Coach Lake!
Jennifer Scott C'00
Women's soccer team 1996-1999
To this day I use Lake's "Setbacks pave the way for comebacks!" as inspiration to myself when things do not go as planned. He will forever be remembered and admired for his never-say-die attitude. LAKE!!!! Love you man!
Kevin Martin ENG '01, Ivy Championship teams 1998 and 2000
In my time as a Penn football player the eyes through which I saw Coach Lake went from those of a boy to those of a man. That maturation process transformed Coach Lake from somewhat of a novelty my freshman year to the most iconic and important member of our program by my senior year. Coach Lake's motivation never wavered. The locker room and tunnel at Franklin Field were covered with his motivational words for the week...every week. I knew every Saturday when we ran out of the tunnel that Coach Lake would be there, rolling his fists in the middle of all of us as we sped by to the sideline. I was always afraid that in that madness a player would run into Coach. But no one ever did, no one ever came close to it. That's how much we all respected him. In the chaos and madness of the pre-game hype, when battle was only moments away, everyone remembered to watch for Coach Lake.
What really inspired me from Coach Lake was a conversation I had with him about two years ago when he told me, "the greatest joy in life is doing good things for people and expecting nothing in return." That was Lake. Perfect!!
Tyson Maugle C'09
I have many fond memories of Coach Lake. I remember as a freshman football player in the fall of 1980 being on Bower Field, and during practice a car driving down the Schyyllkill Expy backfired with a loud bang. Suddenly, Coach Lake hit the ground while everyone else stood there, only turning around to look at the highway. He quickly realized it was only a car backfire sound, stood up and said, "no worries men, I was in WWII and those sounds never leave you. Now give me a quick 'Penn Pride Best, I-V-Y Champs.' He didn't miss a beat. He was a great old-school motivator, and our spirit for the '82 and '83 Championship teams. A man who truly transcended generations has passed.
Mike "Scoop" Savage W'84
What can be said of a true legend. Lake embodied Penn football. He was the receivers' coach my freshman year, but his real job was motivation. My fondest memories are of Coach Staffieri decked out in his game-day plaid, with the saying of the week taped to his forehead. In my seven years in the NFL, I kept one of his sayings up in my locker: The greater the challenge...the more glorious the victory. I treasure the letters that he used to send me. I always knew they were from him, the black sharpie on the envelope and the Penn Football stationary. Although saddened by his loss, I can't help smiling at the legacy and the fact that we were all made better by knowing such a wonderfully caring person. He was our biggest fan and our best friend. He did "better that his best," and we were lucky enough to be blessed to be a part of it.
Brent Novoselsky W'88 (former Penn Football Captain)
A few weeks ago, I phoned Buttercup for an update and to pass along my thoughts and prayers. In no way did I realize what was about to happen and that this would be my last conversation with a man who meant so much to so many of us. The passing of this Hero sent many of us through a range of emotions. I've spent the last day recalling funny stories and one-liners ("I live on a cliff, when are you going to drop by") and slogans ("B.T.B.O.T.B."! Or "smash the Pumpkinheads!"). I've even found myself sharing my memories of Lake and the Penn Roundup, with my unsuspecting co-workers or some of my random patients. These people did not have the pleasure of knowing Coach like we did, yet they must have sensed the passion in my memories of him, as they listened intently...just as I did as an 8th grader at the Penn Football Camp when I first encountered this eclectic, enthusiastic, snappy dresser. When Lake talked, you hung on every word, never knowing how he was next going to make you laugh, motivate you, or give you encouragement. He was there at every practice, every game, every time you needed him. Little did we realize that the time he spent with us at such a critical age would help us to define the way we would live our lives! Of the hundreds of things Lake has said to me, the thing that struck a cord within me the most was "Do Better Than Your Best!" My four children are very familiar with that saying now, and the meaning behind it. Only I am not wearing ANY plaid when I say this to them before the beginning of their school day or sporting event. Only Lake could pull off that outfit! I will miss Lake, but a part of him will live in us all. From the funny memories (he rambled on with breakdowns and football stories in the middle of Frank Caccuro's Bestman toast at my wedding!)...to the simple yet lasting advice he gave us....to the sincerity and genuineness he showed to everyone who encountered him. It's hard not to laugh, yet well up now as we think of him. Sad day boys, it's a sad day indeed. But like many of you, I am a better person and a better father and better coach for having had Dan Staffieri in my life. I will be thinking of Buttercup and praying for both her and Dan! Rest in Peace, Lake...I am sure it's Red and Blue wherever you are!
Bill Knapp C'93
As a competitor through the years, I admired Lake's love of his teams, loyalty to his players, and enthusiasm for the game. We'll miss seeing him from across the way.
Buddy Teevens, Dartmouth head football coach
The last year I played football was in the fall of 1979. I was on the freshman team that went on to win the first Ivy Championship in over 20 years. I don't remember most of the coaches of that team, but Coach Staffieri was unforgettable, a true football coach to his core. Coach Staffieri was one of the coaches that inspired us as we toiled in the shadow of the varsity team that was ranked last in the nation -- so much so that we won the annual Moose game with the varsity. Understandably, there was a lot of negativity during that season, but never did Coach Staffieri utter a negative word. His enthusiasm was as genuine as it was overwhelming. His relentless positive energy was a constant; he exhorted us to excel in every drill, every sprint, every play, every game. It is no coincidence that the return of Penn football as an Ivy power coincides with the arrival of Coach Staffieri. He didn't get too involved in the X's and O's, but Coach Staffieri was truly the heart and soul of Penn football, and I was very lucky to have played for him. He will be deeply missed and remembered always.
John Joseph '83
There are no words to express the immense amount of respect I have for Dan Staffieri. I first met Coach Lake on River Field as he was conducting the "Piano Drill" during freshman football practice. That was September of 1980. Many passed his way before me and an untold number since, and the common denominator is that Coach Staffieri gave every one of us something. It might have been "Do better than YOUR best", "How YOU doin?", "Give YOURself 3" or "How is YOUR family" but it was always about YOU! I don't know if I have ever met a more unselfish man, he never had time to talk about himself. I know he cared deeply about Penn and the many players who passed through the program, but he cared about everyone and treated all with respect regardless of affiliation. It would be easy to respect his prowess as a player on a national championship team, or the courage he displayed as an American war hero, or his enduring success as a football coach. I, however am in awe of what a great Husband and kind human being Dan Staffieri was. If we aspire to be half as good as him in this regard, the world will be a better place.
Bill Lista '84
I have so many great memories of Lake; from scanning the posters down in Hollenback in search of an error so as to earn a coveted "Attaboy!" to the roundups, to the cheers. I'll forever remember his genuinely positive attitude and how he was there to pick us up no matter how down we were. Yet what really amazed me was how he remembered all of our names, seemingly forever. Several years after I had graduated and moved to Maryland, I was at a Terps game where they were honoring their National Championship team of which Lake was a member. I snuck down to the end zone and Lake recognized me right away. Not only that, he remembered everyone I had played with and wanted any updated news on my teammates that I might be able to provide. We had a great visit and even I got to hear some stories from his former teammates about young Lake. Coach Lake, thank you. Thank you for being there for us and always doing Better Than Your Best!
Brent Ruhkamp C '94
1993 I-V-Y Champs
In the early 1990s I played football for the Little Quakers, and Coach Lake psyched us up before one of our home games at Franklin Field. I went on to play for Dartmouth, and after we played Penn in 1997 I went over to him on the field. Before I could introduce myself he said, "Northeast Philadelphia. Germantown Academy. Little Quakers. How are you, Dan?" Could not believe it. I was always jealous that Penn had him as part of their program. An icon that will be missed.
Each Friday before football games over the last four years, I had the distinct honor of driving Coach Lake around campus in his helmet cart. You will never find someone with as much enthusiasm and passion for reaching out to Penn students and getting them excited about the next day's game. The students loved him and he loved Penn. Those Fridays around lunchtime are some of my favorite memories during my time at Penn. Coach Lake could work a room like no one I have ever seen. He would walk into the Dining Commons and get the whole room cheering on with him. We would go eat lunch at Hill House after every drive, and each time he would get the exact same thing -- a turkey sandwich and a glass of milk. They knew him there. Everyone knew him. He was a campus icon and will be greatly missed. I will miss our lunches together, talking Penn football, work, his days at Maryland and anything else. I never played football at Penn but he was a coach for me.
Brian Head, Penn Athletics marketing (2005-09)
At my 10 year reunion I saw Coach Lake and without delay he rememered my name and when I played. Not many on earth have impacted more people than Coach Lake! We will miss you!
When I began the Penn Football Program in 2003, I met Coach Lake for the first time. Not knowing what to expect, I soon realized Lake was the kind person who wasn't merely impressed by how far you could throw or how many tackles you could make -- but by your character, integrity, and perseverance above all else. When he came across these qualities in his players, he would proudly exclaim that they were "an inspiration to us all!" To this day, Coach Lake's words of wisdom continue to permeate for me with a larger-than-life quality. In the short time since his death, I have had a chance to reflect on how he not only influenced my life, but how he influenced the lives of all those around him. While we all got to see the "supercharged" Lake during the Penn breakdowns, it was the one-on-one conversations we shared that I will cherish the most -- for it was these times that Lake made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. His funny quotes and lighthearted quips were not merely intended to teach us lessons about football -- they were intended to teach us lessons about life. I will miss Coach Lake dearly, and I know the Penn football program and family will as well. As he passes through the Pearly Gates riding a Penn football golf cart, wearing a red and blue jacket with plaid pants while clutching his megaphone and whistle, I say to Lake, like I have a thousand times before, "You are the man! I'll see you later." Even now I can hear his response: "Takes one to know one. Thanks for the warning!" I love you, Coach Lake, you are truly "an inspiration to us all."
Tom Stone C'07
My fondest memories will always be of Coach Lake and his helmet cart. As a freshman football player I was floored by the enthusiasm and dedication Lake had for our program. By the time I was a senior, I finally understood and eagerly awaited Lake's chants, seeing him rile up the crowd on Locust, and giving "fives" as we stormed out the tunnel. Penn has lost an icon for sure, but his legacy will live on, as long as every Quaker "does better than your best."
Brandon Clay, Class of 2000
1998 IVY CHAMPS
I first met Lake four years ago, just before my freshman year started. I was walking into the football office, and he greeted me with a smile and his patented greeting, "How you doin'?" I answered as any college kid would, without knowing, telling him I was just fine, nothing special. Little did I know how wrong my answer was.
Later that day, I ended up in the film room with Brian Brazinski, watching film and learning about how we call the offense, per the orders of Coach McLaughlin. As Brian was showing me the ropes, Coach Lake poked his head in, saw Brian, and exclaimed, "Brian, how you doin'?"
"Oh, very well," came Brian's response.
"Perfect," said Lake.
As coach left the room, Brian paused the film. "That's Coach Lake. You'll get to know him. One thing to remember: whenever he says 'How you doin?' you always say 'Oh, very well.' Got it?" And that was my introduction to the ways of Coach Lake.
Throughout my time here at Penn, Lake served as a constant motivator to all of us on the football team. He was there at practice, rain or shine, always picking us up when we were dog-tired. With a zip and bop, a pepper and go, he was always ready with a Lake-ism each week (BTBOTB) and a smile.
I hope that I can motivate someday like he did everyday. I hope I can find something to make me half as happy as it seemed coaching Penn football made him. Whenever Coach Lake was standing out there on Franklin Field, it brought a smile to my face. Shuffling around, talking with us pre-practice, offering us advice as well as a stick of gum. And while I may never see him out there again, I'll always remember the way he carried himself -- with dignity and love for all of us football players. How you doin'? OH, VERY WELL!
Eric Jett, C'10
As a former player I have hundreds of memories of Coach Lake but one of my favorites occurred after a game in the late 1990s. A bunch of players from the early 90s were in town for a mini-reunion. There may have been some postgame tailgating on the parking garage rooftop across the street from Franklin Field. It was starting to get pretty loud up there when, all of the sudden, a coach's whistle silenced everyone on the rooftop. Out of nowhere Coach Lake appeared and greeted us all with a "How you doin'"? The response was immediate: "Oh very well!" He then ran us through all of the chants for that week. I believe that it was the Princeton game, so we smashed the pumpkin-heads. We finished up with 50+ former and current players involved in one of the finest Penn Roundups in history. Coach Lake, give yourself three.
Ed Michvech C 94
Member of the 1993 I-V-Y Champs!
One thing to note for any updates you do is something most people do not know about Lake: in addition to what everyone knows and loves about him, he was also true American hero, having fought in the Pacific theatre including the battle for Iwo Jima.
Some years ago I was "called out of the stands" to help Jack LeFort and the Champions Club. Only at that point did I meet the eccentric man in the plaid pants, red jacket, plaid cap and stunning array of finger-hardware. I would soon learn what a special person of amazing heart he was. Lake's passion for Penn Football was genuine, and his love for every player who had ever donned the red and blue was sincere. When the old Lakemobile coughed to a permanent stop, there was never a question that we would raise the funds and search the Country to have a successor helmet built that we could dedicate to Lake. We lost a piece of our lustrous football program, but he left so many of us with memories of his optimism, passion, love and good will.
Bill Constantine C'66 WG'68
President, Penn Football Board
Dan was a great human being, the persona of great attitude. Always positive and always a friend to all. I got to know Lake in 1986 when assisting with arrangements for Rich Comizio to come to New Haven as our Walter Camp Football Foundation Connecticut Player of the Year. Ever since then he would greet me with a warm smile and a hearty handshake. Truly a great guy. I missed him last season and am saddened by our loss.
Jim Mendillo C'71 D'75
Today I lost a very dear friend. Dan Staffieri was my husband's (Vince Nolan) football coach at St. Joseph's Prep '51, '52 & '53. Danny's impact was so great they were still friends 54 years later. My husband gave Sue the nickname, "Buttercup". Our children knew him as Uncle Dan and loved him as much as we do. Dan Staffieri has lost his battle with bladder cancer today but was not defeated. He had more spirit and drive than most people we know. He was beloved by all who knew him, especially the young players who had the pleasure of his presence over the last 59 years. May Penn's future football players love and respect his legacy in the days to come. The Nolans send all our love and support to Sue, she was the pillar that kept him going during his illness.
Dan, we love you and miss you.
Mary Kay Nolan
As Penn play-by-play announcer in the early to mid-1980s, I knew Dan very well. We lived fairly close in Montco and saw each other often. I never saw him laugh so hard as he did on a day in 1984 or 85 as we were driving to a game at Dartmouth. I was at the wheel, Dan in the passenger seat with business manager Howard Pachase following us. We hit traffic near Danbury, Conn., and lost Pachase for a while. He caught up to us and we told him if he lost us, just to follow our signals ... which were to turn right when Dan blew his cigar smoke out the passenger side and left when I blew my smoke out the driver's side. He laughed the rest of the way. Love you coach, and I will say a prayer for you tonight.
Play-by-play announcer, Villanova Wildcats
Coach Lake was a fine man and will be missed. Even though he was not an alum, he was the most dedicated Quaker I came across during my days at Penn. His enthusiasm for our program will never be replaced.
Tom MacLeod '98
I am saddened by learning the news of Coach Staffieri's passing. I was fortunate enough to have gone to Lenape HS in Medford, N.J. where Coach was my Gym and Drivers Ed teacher. He then followed me to Penn where I played for Harry Gamble in the late 70's. Coach never missed a practice or a game during that time. He was an inspiration to us all, and I never heard anyone utter a negative word about him. He will be dearly missed by all those who were fortunate enough to have known him.
Phil Avila C'80
When my children were younger I would drop them off at school I would chant "Do better than your" and they would reply "Best!" I loved him and I know that he loved me.
Jeffrey M. Goyette Sr. C'86
Captain, 1985 Ivy League Football Champions
So sorry to hear that Dan "Lake" Staffieri has passed away. I played too early to have had the privilege of having Coach Lake on the staff -- I was fullback, linebacker and punter from seasons '55-'57. But I truly enjoyed watching this wonderful and colorful mentor in plaid pants perform his uplifting antics before, during and after each Penn game. It was obvious that he was beloved by each and every Quaker during the past 33 years. The closest we had to Coach Lake back in the late 50s was Jim Brennan -- who used to tape up my ankles before every practice session on River Field -- and before games, of course. Jim had a full head of silver-gray hair, although he looked to be 110. He was as thin as a potato chip and never ran out of humorous stories which he would regale us with while he was tending to his taping duties. Having people like these two guys on the Penn staff made being a Quaker all the more memorable. God bless 'em!
Bill Young C'58 #33
There are countless Lake stories I recall with endless fondness, too many to recount or even count. They are the glue that binds we old Quakers together whenever we gather on campus, or bump into each other in an airport, or talk on the phone. But beyond our fond memories of Lake, or perhaps what made those memories so fond, were the small acts of human kindness and sincere love that Lake extended to those of us in is expansive extended family. Until this last year (when he was "redshirting"), I, like make former Penn players, would periodically receive lengthy handwritten notes updating me on the happening of he, Buttercup and the Penn Quakers. In those letters he asked about my entire family with genuine interest. Yet, it was in person-to-person interaction where Lake shown brightest and where his legacy continues. Between his playing days, coaching at various levels, and appearance at an endless stream of camps and functions, there are literally tens of thousands of athletes he has touched. Many of those athletes, like myself, are today working as teachers and coaches trying to follow in his footsteps. So for helping us all to do better than our best, let's all give Lake three!
Michael G. "Pup" Turner C'95
Coach Staffieri was one of the most genuine, thoughtful, and overall great men I ever come across. Whenever he visited Penn Mail Services, he would always talk to me, ask about my wife and kids, and give me advice. I even had him autograph the "Oh, Very Well" article done on him in regards to his statue. I even started using his slogan as daily inspiration in my signature on my emails and personal checks. The University and society has losy a great man. RIP Coach!
Lerence A. Melton
Senior Supervisor, Penn Mail Services
Except for recalling his golf cart rides around campus with the Quaker, my memories of Coach Lake all begin the same way. As a member of the Penn Band, we played outside the tunnel as the team entered the stadium. In those few moments before the team came in, Coach Lake would share that week's word, written in red on masking tape and stuck to his forehead. The messages he shared elaborating on the word were always whimsical and carried either encouragement or a classy disparagement of that week's opponent. Every week, I looked forward to hearing the word. This week's word is "MISS." While Coach Lake might have once used it to refer to the other team's kicking ability, it carries a different meaning this week.
Matt DeNardo SEAS'03
I occasionally rode the R5 train with Coach Lake. I regularly attend games 20 years after graduation and consider myself a die hard Penn fan. But I paled in comparison to Coach. He was a unique character and I loved chatting with him. In addition to his famous quotes ("Setbacks pave the way for comebacks" hung on my office wall for most of the past decade), I kept another one on my wall -- "WE DID WIN, DIDN'T WE?" It was a bit of a tortured phrase, but he explained that you had to leave the locker room feeling you had won before you ran out on the field. "It's a bit silly, I know," he said, "but we're working with kids here. They have to be told they're winners so that they don't even consider the alternative. It works, you know." I loved it when visitors asked about the sign and I would then give a full description of Coach Lake, his preferred attire and his winning personality. I'm grinning as I write this, because Coach made you smile on sight.
Steven Lampe W'90 WG'98
It is indeed a very sad day for all Penn Alumni, even more for past football players. I will never forget Coach's words of inspiration that he would stick onto our lockers freshman year in 1979. He willed us from being the worst in the Ivies to finally getting the I-V-Y championship our senior year, the first one since the 1959 season and the beginning of a winning tradition that continues on. He will always be in my heart!
David Harris W'83