They both have that Italian blood coursing through their body, fueling a passion for family and football.
The father – Mike Dimino – is the coach, fierce, sometimes frantic and always in charge at Del Campo High School. The son – Tyler Dimino – is the quarterback, steady, accurate, unflappable with the admiration of his teammates for leading an 11-0 team.
So, really, how goes that mentor-pupil relationship when that family blood goes from a simmer to a boil?
Coach Dimino paused, then laughed in saying, “I think Tyler doesn’t always like playing for me. Sometimes, I’m not the nicest coach. I’m very intense.”
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Said Tyler, “I’m very proud to call him my dad and my coach, but he’s definitely the hardest on me than anyone on the team, because he’s my dad. It was hard to get used to, and I haven’t totally gotten a full hold of it. He’s in control, the coach, and I’m the quarterback. He’ll yell at me, but I know he’s proud.”
Beyond proud, the coach will say. This year, Del Campo produced the first perfect regular season in the history of the school, which opened in 1963. The Cougars have made the playoffs 14 of the last 15 seasons under Dimino, who has been a head coach in the region since the 1990s. He has 157 wins and yearns for more.
Del Campo plays Sacramento on Friday in a Division II contest, and father and son are breaking down hours of film. Tyler has passed for 32 touchdowns and rushed for four, and he has played like a veteran after youthful mistakes cost him a year ago, earning the trust of his father to audible out of plays as he sees fit.
The Dimino name has been synonymous with football in this region for decades. Jim Dimino, father of Mike, coached championship teams at El Camino in the 1970s and ’80s, landing in the Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame. For the past 20 seasons, Jim Dimino has been the color voice for the Access Sacramento Game of the Week.
Ryan Dimino, Tyler’s older brother, is on the Del Campo coaching staff and is also a substitute teacher on campus. He powered Del Campo to a 13-1 season and a D-III section championship in 2009 and earned Bee Player of the Year honors.
“I looked up to my brother and always wanted to be like him,” Tyler said. “I love having him here again.”
Ryan in 2009 rushed for 2,702 yards, one of the greatest seasons in section history, and passed for 2,089 with 47 total touchdowns. He labored through five painful seasons at UC Davis as a linebacker. Football battered Ryan, who has undergone six shoulder surgeries and a knee operation. How gritty? Ryan grimaces these days in talking about needing surgery for his carpal tunnel in his wrists.
“I know, a linebacker with carpal tunnel doesn’t sound right, huh?” Ryan said with a laugh.
But toughness is what best defines the Dimino bunch. Jim Dimino hobbles along like a wayward penguin, too stubborn to get hip and knee replacement, explaining that retired coaches look more credible and mean when they waddle.
“My mom (Kerstin) is the tough one in the family, a tough Viking Swede who came over on a boat when she was 20, though Dad will remind you that he’s third-generation Italian and came over from Sicily,” said Mike Dimino, who played defensive back at Mira Loma in the late 1970s. “Ryan and I are a lot alike, very intense. Tyler is more laid back and mellow but he loves to win just as much. I still think of Tyler as the baby of the family. He’s had a great year. He’s as accurate of any quarterback I’ve ever had.”
Mike Dimino pursued a career in law enforcement, but his commitment to coaching never wavered, learning from his father one better be on his death bed to miss a practice.
Once, during his 29-year stint with the California Highway Patrol, Dimino was struck by a bullet fragment during a shooting-range demonstration, a piece of metal ripping into his jaw. Sure enough, the coach arrived to practice, swollen face and all, with stories to tell.
The Dimino family’s history of playing through pain is not without controversy. In the 2009 section title game against unbeaten Inderkum, Ryan took a helmet to the ribs, fracturing three of them. Already battling the flu, Ryan soldiered on, implored by kid brother Tyler, the ballboy. Finally yielding to the pain, Ryan hours later suggested that an emergency room visit was in order. He underwent surgery, including to repair a punctured lung.
“I got so much heat for that later, people emailing to say I must care too much about winning to keep my kid in the game like that – what’s the deal?” Mike Dimino said. “I didn’t know he had the (fractured) ribs. He didn’t either. I never would have played him, but that kid was so tough.”
When he was in eighth grade, Tyler suffered a broken ankle and a fractured pelvis during a game.
“We went in and a doctor said, ‘When a Dimino kid comes in, it’s serious,’ ” Mike Dimino said. “I know they love to play. They just love this game. They grew up on it.
“I tell Ryan that he’s coaching special teams, and he works with receivers and quarterbacks, and if we win, it’s because of the kids. And if we lose, it’s all on you.”
Mike Dimino said he is on “the backside of his coaching career.” One thing that will continue for he and his wife of 34 years, Sonia, is date night.
“We love to eat,” he said, “especially Italian.”
A night on the town at least once a week over the years has kept their marriage strong.
“It helped us a lot,” he said. “I didn’t get into teaching like my dad did, but I got into coaching because I loved it, and it was a way to give back. I enjoyed my CHP career and miss some of it. You see some bad things but there were also a lot of happy endings, helping people.”
Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD