Tom Bradley has mixed emotions upon becoming interim coach after Paterno's firing


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley held his first news conference Thursday in the same room at Beaver Stadium where his old boss, Joe Paterno, frequently sparred with reporters.

Bradley, 55, looked somber and tired and showed little emotion until being asked about Paterno.

The Hall of Fame coach was fired late Wednesday night by the Penn State board of trustees as a result of a child sexual abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, the man Bradley replaced in 2000.

"Coach Paterno will go down in history as one of the greatest men," Bradley said. "Maybe most of you know him as a great football coach. I've had the privilege and the honor to spend time with him. He's had such a dynamic impact on so many, so many, and I'll say it again, so many people and players' lives.

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"It's with great respect that I speak of him, and I'm proud to say that I worked for him."

He said he was replacing Paterno, 84, with "very mixed emotions."

Bradley said he talked to Paterno at 11 p.m. Wednesday night, a short time after he had been fired, but refused to divulge the details, calling them "personal in nature." He said he plans to talk to Paterno again before No. 12 Penn State's game Saturday against Nebraska at Beaver Stadium.

"I think I know what coach will say, 'Would you just stay focused on the task at hand? You know what has to be done,' " Bradley said. "I know him well enough that [he'll] say, 'Take care of the kids. Take care of the team. I'm OK.'

"It's just the way he's going to be. I don't think he would want me to come over to the house -- he might kick me out anyway. He would tell me to, `Go do what you need to do.' "

Bradley was Paterno's top assistant for more than a decade and long has been considered the leading in-house candidate to replace Paterno.

"[Tom] is very sad," said his brother, Jim Bradley, the Steelers chief orthopedic surgeon. "He's ambivalent in his feelings. That's his coach you're talking about there, the guy who brought him into the program.

"I'm happy my brother actually got a chance to be the head coach at Penn State, but he [isn't] very excited [about the circumstances]."

Tom Bradley, who is single, has turned down numerous college and NFL coaching opportunities through the years to stay at Penn State. But he also has had aspirations to be a head coach and interviewed for head coaching vacancies at Pitt and Temple during the offseason.

"As I said earlier, it is with very mixed emotions and a heavy heart that this has occurred; that we are going through this," Bradley said. "We are obviously in a very unprecedented situation. I just have to find a way to restore the confidence and to start a healing process with everybody. I am going to try and go about it."

Penn State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) had won seven consecutive games under Paterno but were idle last week. The game Saturday will be the first the Nittany Lions have played without Paterno as a member of the coaching staff since 1949.

"I don't think there's been a situation like this in college football that I can remember," Jim Bradley said. "I've never seen anything like it. It's kind of unchartered territory.

"[Tom] has the toughest three games of the season coming up, and two of them are on the road, and you have all this turmoil around the university and you have to try to get these guys to focus ... I think it's a big challenge."

Jim Bradley said his brother has not been promised anything beyond this season.

Tom Bradley, who declined several times to answer any questions about his involvement or testimony in the Sandusky case, is one of three brothers who played for Paterno. His older brother, Jim, was a defensive back for Penn State and younger brother Matt, now deceased, played linebacker. His father, Jim, played basketball for Pitt.

A Johnstown native, Tom Bradley is in his 33rd season as a member of the Penn State coaching staff and has served as defensive coordinator the past 12.

Nicknamed "Scrap" for his hard-nosed style of play, he arrived in Happy Valley as a safety and special teams player in 1975. He never left, going from special teams captain to graduate assistant on Paterno's staff in 1979.

Bradley has coached the special teams, outside linebackers, wide receivers, defensive ends, defensive backs and served as the program's recruiting coordinator.

"I am who I am, I'm not going to change," he said. "I'm not going to pretend I'm somebody else."

Bradley's defense, which will now be led by co-coordinators Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden, has helped preserve several wins for the Nittany Lions this year.

Penn State ranks in the Top 25 in Division I-A in six defensive categories -- third in scoring defense (12.4 points per game), seventh in pass defense (170.4 yards per game) and eighth in total defense (282.3 ypg).

"No doubt in my mind that coach Bradley will do a great job at coaching this team," outside linebacker Nate Stupar tweeted.

"Tom has dedicated his career to serving his alma mater and helping student-athletes excel on and off the field," interim athletic director Mark Sherburne said. "We thank him for that unwavering service and look forward to his continued leadership."


Ron Musselman: rmusselman@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rmusselmanppg


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