Mooch has his final say

On the day after, Steve Mariucci still wasn't quite sure what had happened. And as he wrapped up his six-year tenure as head coach of the 49ers with the proper good-byes and thank yous Thursday morning during his farewell news conference at the Santa Clara Hilton, Mariucci declined to sling vitriol at the organization. But when the bleary-eyed Mariucci's 50-minute address was over, you were left with the impression that he could have.

"I've seen a lot of people go," in his six years in San Francisco, Mariucci said. "Now it's my turn to go."

But Mariucci, fired by the Niners on Wednesday, first wanted to set the record straight regarding the circumstances of his departure.

"It seems that the issue, or at least one of the issues, has to do with a so-called power struggle," said Mariucci, who then launched into a detailed description of his discussions with team officials regarding a contract extension dating back to training camp last July. Mariucci said his representative, Gary O'Hagan, recently mentioned - and nothing more - to team officials that Mariucci would be interested in expanding his duties to include vice president of football operations should John McVay retire from that position in the near future as expected.

"I was offering my services if they wanted me to take on any responsibilities other than what I have already, if it presents itself," Mariucci said. "I told them that I was very willing to do that. Certainly not demanding it. The additional responsibility was interesting if it arose, but it certainly wasn't necessary. I have enough work to do."

Team owner/director John York apparently took those overtures differently. Mariucci also indicated that York's dismay regarding Mariucci's previous dalliances with other attractive coaching opportunities also recently resurfaced. On Wednesday, York indicated those issues were part of the "philosophical differences" with Mariucci that convinced him to part ways with the successful and popular coach.

"I'm not sure exactly what that means," Mariucci said. "When he talked to me (Wednesday), it was about seeing different colors. He said that. It's hard for me to explain what he means."

But Mariucci had a good idea what was coming two days before that meeting.

Mariucci was on the couch with his children Monday night watching the latest episode of "Joe Millionaire" when the phone rang. On the line was York, and the ensuing conversation gave Mariucci his first indication he'd soon be losing his job that had made him a millionaire with the 49ers.

"He seemed to be upset from the moment I said hello," Mariucci said. "Judging by the tone of his voice, he was very angry, and I didn't know why. I was baffled. It led me to believe that things had changed very quickly."

For Mariucci and the Niners, they've now changed for good.

"When you sign on the dotted line to be a coach, you know it's an unstable deal," he said. "There's no Joe Paterno deals any more where you stay and stay and stay. I made it six years. Rather than dwelling on having to do something else, I feel grateful for the years I had. It was a lot of work, a lot of fun - most of it - and it was worth doing. It's going to make me a better coach. No regrets, no animosity whatsoever. John has every right to choose who he would like to coach this football team. ... I guess it could have been handled a little differently, but that's just how it goes."

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