Esks' insurance policy

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

It's a moot point, really.

But ask Danny Maciocia where he might be if somebody else had landed the Edmonton Eskimos head coaching job and you get an honest answer.

"There's so many factors that come into play," said Maciocia, who took over from Tom Higgins in early December and became only the second Canadian-born head coach in franchise history.

"First, it's a matter of whether or not the individual wanted to retain my services and keep me around. Second, who that person was would have been important.

"It's very important when you spend long days and long hours with a coaching staff, that you have to have some sort of relationship.

"If you have that, it's so much easier to work in that type of environment compared to dealing with someone you know you have nothing in common with."

Went undefeated

The 38-year-old Maciocia went undefeated during the CFL pre-season, guiding the Esks to a win and a draw in two games versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Even after six months on the job, including 19 days of training camp as well as the aforementioned two exhibition games, Maciocia is still adjusting to the title of head coach.

"I don't think I ever pinched myself and asked if I knew what was happening to me," said Maciocia, who interviewed eight times before getting the job and signing a three-year contract. "I even have a tough time when I hear people refer to me as the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. As we're talking, it still hasn't registered. Maybe it will when we officially take the field on Friday."

Maciocia's track to the Esks' top job was anything but fast. He coached junior football in east end Montreal before taking his act to Italy. His volunteer efforts with the Montreal Alouettes finally led to a paying gig with the club. But that ended when Don Matthews took over in November 2001. A three-year stint as Edmonton's offensive co-ordinator paved the way for his promotion to head coach.

By all accounts, head coach Maciocia isn't a radically different person from the offensive co-ordinator several former Alouettes got to know in Montreal.

"We've always had a good relationship because of his honesty and strength of character," said cornerback Davis Sanchez, who began his CFL career with the Als in 1999. "He's a family man and has values and integrity. That's someone you want to play for and can trust."

Maciocia occupying the head coach's office was a factor in Sanchez's decision to sign. It also allowed the Esks to repatriate quarterback Ricky Ray.

Grey Cup appearances

With Maciocia drawing up the plays, Ray led Edmonton to back-to-back Grey Cup appearances beginning in 2002.

"He's been the only coach I've known up here," said Ray. "He's a very bright guy. I've been around a lot of coaches who are kind of locked into their philosophy, locked into their system and they stick with it.

"He's a guy who is always thinking and always trying to improve. He's willing to change things. He's not locked into whatever philosophy he has. I guess his philosophy is to be open minded."

Clearly, football is Maciocia's life.

Asked what he'd be doing now if football didn't figure in the equation, the rookie head coach needed a moment's reflection.

"I'd probably be selling insurance or probably a claims examiner for the family business that we have back in Montreal," he said.

"I'm pretty sure my mom is glad I got into football because I was probably driving her nuts those few years we were together. Our relationship is probably stronger now than if we had to work together."


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