ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Rick Forzano, who was the coach of the Detroit Lions during the mid-1970s and hired a young Bill Belichick to work on his staff, has died. He was 90.
The Lions said Thursday night that Forzano’s family confirmed his death. He died Wednesday.
Forzano coached the Lions for the 1974 and 1975 seasons, plus the first four games in 1976. He went 15-17.
“Rick was a wonderful man and we are truly saddened by the news of his passing,” Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford said in a statement. “On behalf of me, my family and the Lions organization, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the entire Forzano family.”
Forzano was also the head coach at Connecticut (1964-65) and Navy (1969-72).
Forzano’s staffs in Detroit included future NFL head coaches Raymond Berry, Joe Bugel and Jerry Glanville. After graduating from Wesleyan, Belichick was a special assistant with the Baltimore Colts in 1975. He then joined Forzano’s staff with the Lions.
“He’s coaching guys that, he’s younger than they are,” Forzano said in 2017 for an NFL Films video about him and Belichick. “But they just accepted him.”
Belichick was an assistant special teams coach for Detroit. He would also coach tight ends and receivers for the Lions before joining the Denver Broncos’ staff in 1978.
Born in Akron, Ohio, Forzano graduated from Kent State in 1951. He coached high school for five years before a college coaching career that included stops as an assistant at Wooster (1956), Kent State (1957-58) and Navy (1959-63).
In between his head coaching jobs at UConn and Navy, he was an NFL assistant with St. Louis and Cincinnati. He joined the Lions as an assistant in 1973 before becoming their head coach.