From Division II to Dolphins, Sparano’s rise impressive

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — It’s 10:30 a.m. on a brilliant New England morning in late June, and 10 members of the Sparano family have been at the dining room table for at least two hours.
Ever since they arrived at Ellis Island from Italy in the 1800s, the Sparano men have been preparing lavish breakfasts. Today’s spread features four different meats, scrambled eggs and a choice of chocolate chip or banana-nut pancakes.
For generations, important discussions have taken place at this table, which on this day is occupied by Tony Sparano, his parents, his two younger sisters, wife, daughter, two nephews and a niece.
At this table, the title “head coach of the Miami Dolphins” holds little weight, and that’s why Sparano is drawn here. The only sign of Sparano’s recent promotion is the replica of a Dolphins helmet hanging above the door of the three-bedroom, white frame home that his parents, Tony Jr. (better known as “Poppy”) and Marie, share with their daughter Kim’s family in East Haven.
In the high-powered world of the NFL, it’s rare to run across a man without pretense, but the 46-year-old Sparano might be the exception. As family members take turns telling stories about him, he lowers his head and rubs his temple as if he’s in pain.