'He's a great leader'

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

When the Edmonton Eskimos introduced Tom Higgins as their new head coach three years ago, minutes after running Don Matthews out of town, the players on hand to witness the transfer of power sat in stunned silence, some of them close to tears.

Throw a pine box and weeping widow in the corner and Higgins could have been delivering a eulogy, not accepting the most coveted coaching job in the CFL.

Fortunately for Danny Maciocia, his first day on the job felt nothing at all like a wake. With the players on his welcoming committee neither shocked nor saddened, there wasn't a wet eye in the house.

"It's good news, absolutely," said Edmonton offensive lineman Tim Prinsen. "He's a fierce competitor, great leader, he knows the game well and he has a good offensive mind. He's the right man for the job. He's put his dues in as an offensive co-ordinator in this league and I think he'll lead this team well."

On the defensive side of the ball, Singor Mobley is also looking forward to the new regime, even if it means a much stricter environment.

"He's the type of guy we need," said Mobley. "If guys are not doing their job he's going to say something to them, not hide anything from players. He's going to be honest with us, and that's what we need."

ALLERGIC TO PATIENCE

Endorsements from veteran leaders on both sides of the football are not to be underestimated, especially for a first-time head coach in a market that often seems allergic to patience.

Maciocia is the boss, he'll make the rules and he'll set the agenda, but if he can't find a way to fire up the talent and get everyone pulling in the same direction, he doesn't have a chance. Many good coaches have led many great players to failure because the chemistry wasn't there. Ask Kay Stephenson.

"You can almost say that the players make the coach," said Mobley. "You can have all the talent in the world and if we don't gel as a team it's going to make the coach look bad and ourselves look bad.

"With the new head guy we have here, it brings back new life and new excitement. That's what we were missing last year."

A new head coach can have a significant impact on a player's life and career, so they followed the selection process closely, exchanging rumours and hoping out loud their new boss would be someone they knew and respected.

"You think about it, but you try not to worry about stuff you can't control," said Prinsen. "We've got good management and they've pretty much made the right decisions over the years."

SMOOTHER TRANSITION

So, in an effort to make Maciocia's transition that much smoother, what are football players looking for in a head coach? How do you avoid starting off on the wrong cleat?

The veterans say it all comes down to consistency, respect and telling it like it is.

"Just to be honest with us," said Mobley. "If guys aren't doing their job, let them know they're not doing their job instead of letting it pass."

In Higgins, the Eskimos had a level-headed leader who seldom let emotion enter into any equation. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes fire and brimstone, at the right time and place, can be an effective weapon.

Maciocia, by all accounts, can shout it out loud in both official languages.

"He's definitely got an aggressive aura," said Prinsen, who saw it all in those closed-door film sessions when Maciocia was offensive coordinator. "He seems soft spoken, but he gets his point across and he raises his voice when he needs to. He's well respected in the locker-room."

And that's all they're looking for.

"A guy to lead us," said Prinsen. "We'll follow coach Maciocia. He's been fair with us since he's been here and he knows football."


Videos

Photos