NEW YORK — Joe Paterno felt like he was in charge again this spring.
With his surgically replaced hip, Penn State’s 82-year-old coach was back on the field coaching his team the way he likes. He’s more mobile, more energetic and more patient these days, free of the pain that had dogged him for two years.
The Nittany Lions are truly his team again.
“I coached this spring. That may be the kiss of death,” Paterno kidded with reporters Thursday. “Last year all I did was supervise. I was really more of an observer.
“Now I can grab the kid and say, ‘You can’t do it that way.”’
Paterno spent almost all of last season coaching from the press box during games and using a golf cart to get around practice because of an aching hip that had been bothering him for two years.
The Nittany Lions went 11-2 last season, winning the Big Ten and contending for a national title. They lost to Southern California in the Rose Bowl.
Paterno said the pain in his hip had been so bad he could barely get out of bed in the morning. He credited his assistants for keeping Penn State on top.
“I have a great staff. Those two years I didn’t do much. We had a pretty good football team last year, and I didn’t do much,” he said.
He said the pain not only kept him away from his team on the fields, it affected how he dealt with his players away from it.
“I’m a little more patient. I have more kids come in and talk to me about some things,” he said.