Toronto's Benevides returns home

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

TORONTO Mike Benevides understands that his old friends think hes an idiot.

He understands that his parents are upset and his grandparents hurt.

All this because Benevides, a Toronto guy, a former Central Tech player, a York University graduate, a Scarborough minor football coach, turned down the offer to coach the Argonauts.

When you say dream job, absolutely this was the dream job, said Benevides, who has grown into real coach from football vagabond with the B.C. Lions. I remember as a kid crossing the tracks to go to Dominion and paying two bucks to get one of those tickets to watch the Argos play. They were my team.

Until he had a chance to be their head coach.

It was the toughest decision Ive had to make in my life, said Benevides, whose defence will line up against the Argos tonight at the Rogers Centre. My inner voice and my gut said: Dont do it. Ultimately, it came down to things just didnt feel correct for me. Its easy now to say the timing wasnt right. I felt very good early on (in the interview process). The people were great.

David (Cynamon) and Howard (Sokolowski) were great to me. But, at the end of the day, I felt saying thanks but no thanks was the right thing to do.

That was in December. Three weeks later, Bart Andrus was hired to coach the Argos and the rest of history. The way this Argos season has started, Andrus may soon be history himself, but thats another matter for another day.

For Benevides, the chance to be a head coach, in his home town, after pushing so hard to get near the top of his profession, seemed natural. You cant help but cheer for a guy like Benevides when you know his whole story. He began with Wally Buono in Calgary as a volunteer coach for training camp, the perfect CFL assistant unpaid.

Buono was so impressed with his non-salaried coach that he promoted him and used him as a volunteer for the summer. This wasnt exactly the kind of employment the business department at York tends to brag about for its graduates.

From there, Benevides was promoted to assistant coach for the rest of the season, again without pay. Then he coached special teams, and did some Canadian scouting, and broke down film ... anything to make an impact and learn the business. Almost all of it for slave wages.

Eventually, he got a paycheque, although not much of one. And when Buono left Calgary for Vancouver, he made sure Benevides followed suit.

Id say hes my best friend, Benevides said of Buono. Hes also his defensive coordinator a reasonably well-paying job by CFL standards and a candidate every time a team in the league is looking for a new coach.

But what does it say about this Argos team, about this Argos talent, when a Toronto guy says no to a Toronto job? Wisely, Benevides wont talk much about the personnel or the players he would have had to work with, but the subtext of his turning down the Boatmen seems simple enough: He didnt believe he could succeed here at this time.

The way this Argos season is shaping up, and you cant have a quarterbacking controversy when you dont have a quarterback, he probably made the right call in turning them down. Their problems are larger than any one man can solve.

I still think about it, Benevides said. My friends think Im an idiot for not taking the job but the people in the business understand. They said: Good for you for not doing it.

But tonight, there may be a wistful feeling of what could have been.

Its the Argos. Its the team I grew up cheering for, Benevides said. Theres always a little something for me in that game.

Just not enough to bring him home.


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