Prior to his appointment at Syracuse, Azzinaro spent four years coaching in the collegiate ranks in New England. In 1998, he was the defensive line coach at the University of Maine, after serving as the defensive coordinator for the University of Massachusetts in 1997. Azzinaro spent the 1995 and 1996 seasons in The BIG EAST Conference as the defensive line coach for Boston College, where he mentored four linemen who signed NFL contracts.
From 1992 through 1994, Azzinaro was the linebackers and punt protection coach, in addition to serving as recruiting coordinator, at Massachusetts. He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1994. Azzinaro's UMass defensive unit was one of the top defenses in the Yankee Conference in 1994, ranking second in rushing defense and total defense.
He started his coaching career at American International College as a graduate assistant in 1982-83 and earned his master's in educational psychology in 1985. Azzinaro landed his first full-time coaching position at Westfield State College, where he served as the defensive coordinator in 1985. In 1986 he was the head coach at Western New England College. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Azzinaro played collegiate football at American International College, leading the team in tackles as a linebacker in 1980. He earned his undergraduate degree in psychology in 1981. Azzinaro is married to Alison Rourke. Azzinaro has coached in two bowl games (1999-Music City and 2001-Insight.com), while mentoring seven NFL players (Tim Morabito, Chris Sullivan, Stalin Colinet, Erik Storz, Eric Downing, Dwight Freeney and Duke Pettijohn).