Stamp of disapproval

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

The good thing about the guy taking over as head coach of the Calgary Stampeders is Edmonton fans still have Tom Higgins to kick around.

Ned Flanders, as Higgins became known, won a Grey Cup here, took the team to the big game twice and was Coach of the Year.

The town never took to him. That's something that Maciocia, who is enjoying the effects of following Higgins and being exceptionally popular, still says he can't figure out.

"I have a tough time understanding Edmonton in general when it came to Tom Higgins. He could do no right.

"When he won the Grey Cup, it was like everyone just put that on hold for a while and then were right back at it the following year.

"I'm hopeful if I'm still here in three years that I have the number of wins he had, have taken this team to two Grey Cups, won one of them and been Coach of the Year. If I get run out of town then, well, thank you very much."

Maciocia doesn't mention the fact that the team was down on Higgins as much as the town. Higgins didn't have a high percentage of players who swore by him.

"I don't know who was a fan and who wasn't a fan. I just hope not too many of them aren't Danny Maciocia fans," said the rookie head coach who takes his team to McMahon Stadium for the 43rd Labour Day game Monday and returns for the rematch in Commonwealth Stadium Friday.

'RUN OUT OF TOWN'

Higgins was "run out of town" with a record of 44 wins and 28 losses because he lost his team. "I think it was time," said Singor Mobley of Higgins's departure. "Some of the players lost their belief in Tom and some of his decisions ... ah, it's old news now."

Sorry. Higgins becomes a story again in Edmonton with the Labour Day game. That's another thing Maciocia says he doesn't get.

As the Eskimos re-assembled on Alberta's 100th birthday to get dialed up for the Battle of Alberta, it was very obvious from the line of questioning that this is very much is going to be billed as 'Tom Higgins vs Danny Maciocia'.

"This isn't Higgins vs. Maciocia or Maciocia vs. Higgins. It's not me vs. him. Tom Higgins brought me here as an offensive co-ordinator. He called me up and offered me a job. We won a Grey Cup together here. He was really good to me and my family.

NICE MAN

"I remember when I first came here, he sent me out to the airport. I thought I was going to the airport to pick up a quarterback. Instead I was picking up my family. He flew my family out."

Nobody ever suggested Higgins wasn't a nice man. In fact, that was part of the problem. And in there somewhere is the biggest difference in coaching styles between them, as Maciocia takes his 6-3 team to go against Higgins's 4-5 team Monday in Calgary.

"Danny has a little more emotion," says Mobley. "If we're playing well, he'll tell us we're playing well. If we're playing bad, he'll let us have it. Danny is more of an in-your-face coach."

Quarterback Ricky Ray, who missed last year's 9-9 season while with the New York Jets in the NFL, received his big break when Higgins was head coach. But he says it wasn't like Higgins gave him the break. "I had to go play," he said of getting his chance due to injuries.

Maciocia was Ray's offensive co-ordinator and biggest believer and Maciocia getting the head coaching job went a long way to Ray returning to the Eskimos.

Ray, as well, says there's a big difference in coaching styles. "Tom was more of a guy who, no matter what happened, would always see the positives. He'd put a positive spin on everything. Danny is more of a guy who will really tell you how it is, bad or good."

Maciocia says he thinks that's fair.

"I'm more fiery, passionate and emotional. We're different."

To this point, as they'd say in Maciocia's native Quebec, it's vive la difference.


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