Basically, Amato says it was Chuck being Chuck – and looking back the coach calls last year "the most rewarding football season I was ever associated with."
"That's what the leader's there for," Amato said here Monday, as he faced the media at the ACC Football Kickoff. "I told my coaches, my players, I said when adversity strikes, one of two things can happen, you can have a frown on your face or you can have a smile on your face. I told my coaches if you walk around with a frown on your face I'll give you something to frown about. And you better not, because players emulate the coaches – and I talked about that, daily. I did, I talked about it daily to these kids and the seniors, they just wouldn't let it happen.
"It's just so crazy. Probably the best game we played last year was the first game of the year. I mean the best total game was the first game. I remember Coach (Frank) Beamer coming across the field and saying, ‘Wow.' Had anything changed, who knows the way it would have gone?"
Things changed later – after Amato's kids hung in there.
"It's called character," he said. "I wasn't going to let them lose that. It happens. I said after the bowl game – somebody said, ‘After six games you were 2-4 you said it was the most difficult season you've been through,' I said, "we weren't through it, we were through half of it.' I said, ‘Yeah, I had a knot in my gut, not for me but for the kids and the fans. Not for me because I never changed my attitude about how I was going to work with those youngsters.
"But when that started to happen – it was … this may be the most rewarding season … it's not maybe, it is the most rewarding football season I was ever associated with because of the way it happened. And I said, ‘What would have happened if you took the schedule and flipped it?' And we were 5-1 at one point and ended up 7-5 – would there have been as much … that's why they schedule the games and they have to be played.
"But the kids had as much to do about it as I did it. I appreciate (what they said) and I was (positive) – that was my job and I constantly, each week … and they never gave in."
When told Leroy Harris talked Sunday about how Amato reacted while being on the hot seat, Amato said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, is there something I don't know about? Am I on ESPN." Reminded of the talk last year, he said his positive attitude comes from "Drinking a lot of grape juice at night."
The players said they were 2-4 but the coach told them they should act like they were 6-0. "It's part of the job," Amato said. "We do more than y'all think we do, we really do. It really is. It's such a frail thing and so many people were hoping … maybe we did too much too quick (in his first years) which I would never trade. To be two wins away from averaging eight wins a season in six years? When I first came here there was I believe either five schools in the country or seven schools in the country that had won seven games or more 10 years in a row – just seven games or more – it shows you how tough it is … I've had some good teachers, too. I've been around some good teachers."
And he isn't about to change.
"I haven't," he said. "I haven't gained weight. Little more gray hair but that goes with age and I'm 78. No. I enjoy being around people – I told you that when I took the job and I'm going to tell you that again. I love doing what I'm doing and I love doing what I'm doing where I'm at. All my efforts go to that and they did when I first got here. Nothing's changed. Nothing. My expectations, my standards, nothing's changed. Nothing."