BOSTON (AP) – He says it with a laugh, but there’s a look in Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski’s eye that shows he can get serious when he needs to.

“I can snap,” he said, kicking his head back with a chuckle that dares you to disagree.

“I like to kick (butt). Just because we’re loose doesn’t mean we’re not disciplined,” Jagodzinski said this week as he prepared the Eagles to play Virginia Tech in Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. “But I don’t think you can play competitive sports if you’re tight.

“I want the kids to have fun playing college football. If it’s a constant beat-down, who’d want to be a part of that?” he said.

“I sure don’t.”

No. 12 Boston College is winning and having fun doing it under coach Jags, the former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator in his first head coaching job. The Eagles have won 10 regular-season games for the second time in school history, and they’re playing for a title in a conference they joined just three seasons ago.

They owe a lot of their success to quarterback Matt Ryan, the ACC player of the year, and a steady core of seniors who didn’t need to regroup after coach Tom O’Brien defected to North Carolina State. But credit also goes to Jagodzinski and the way he has balanced fun and fundamentals with a team that needed both.

“He can talk with them, he can laugh with them, he can joke with them,” athletic director Gene DeFilippo said. “But I’d hate to have him after me if he’s angry, because he’s got a real tough side, too, like all head coaches have to.”

Jagodzinski doesn’t coach like he came from the old school. Instead, he quotes movies like “Old School,” the Will Ferrell farce more popular with his players than, it’s safe to say, it was with O’Brien.

A Navy product, O’Brien brought discipline to the program after a 1996 gambling scandal forced BC to overhaul its athletic department. He led the Eagles to eight straight bowl games, including wins in the last six – the longest such streak in the nation.

But when he left for N.C. State, DeFilippo put a different face on the program.

And this one smiles.

“You have to coach to your personality,” DeFilippo said. “If you try anything else, people will see through it. Jags is coaching to his personality: You work hard, you work smart, you work together as a team and you have fun. His enthusiasm is infectious. He just leads that way.”

Receiver Rich Gunnell said the change in style surprised some players when they first met him last winter.

“We’re all sitting back, we didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know whether to laugh with him or not,” Gunnell said. “But we all figured it out, his philosophy and his way of doing things.”

Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar remembers an injured teammate that Jags dubbed “NASA,” because he wasn’t getting back on the field until all systems were go. Safety Jamie Silva remembers Jagodzinski dancing in the locker room after the victory in Clemson clinched an ACC division title and a berth in the championship game.

Not much of a dancer.

But a heck of a coach.

“He knows when to be serious and when to have fun,” Silva said. “His fun side is out there a lot, which is nice because it makes us more relaxed.”

Running back Andre Callender remembers Jagodzinski getting into a three-point stand to show the proper blocking technique to a lineman; the players laughed, and he laughed with them. Before practice he works the field, joking with his players while they stretch.

Then a horn sounds to signal the end of stretching, and Jags has his own way of telling the players to get serious.

“You know in his tone of voice,” Callender said. “You have times when you could play around, but when he’s serious, it’s serious.”

Ryan learned more about his coach when he took a contingent of players to the Boston College Campus School, which serves children with multiple disabilities. Jagodzinski’s 9-year-old daughter, who is epileptic and autistic, is a student there.

“It was great to see him in that light, as a father and out of the role as a coach,” Ryan said.

DeFilippo saw another side of his new hire at an Orange Bowl function in the Bahamas for the coaches and athletic directors and their families. They were sitting on the beach, listening to a three-piece band when they looked up and noticed a fourth had joined them.

“Well, all of a sudden I look up and Jags is talking to the band and he’s telling them to play a certain piece and he’s playing the harmonica,” DeFilippo said. “He got a long ovation and they started calling, ‘Jags!”‘

The boss ordered him back on stage.

“And,” DeFilippo said, “he was awesome.”

AP-ES-11-29-07 1652EST

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