Wait another year

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

For Danny Maciocia it was an honour getting a seat at the table.

Yesterday, the Edmonton Eskimos head coach was one of three nominees at the CFL's Coach of the Year luncheon in Toronto.

Calgary Stampeders head coach Tom Higgins won the award, with Maciocia placing second in the voting and Michael (Pinball) Clemons of the Toronto Argonauts finishing third.

"It was real good, first class," said Maciocia of the luncheon. "I was really impressed with the presentations, the luncheon itself, and just the way they went about it. There was definitely a touch of class at that event."

GREY CUP CHAMPIONSHIP

Maciocia guided the Eskimos in his rookie season to an 11-7 record and a Grey Cup championship.

Yesterday, he received 14 first-place votes from the Football Reporters of Canada. Higgins won the award with 33 votes. Clemons got six.

"It's obviously an honour and a privilege to be recognized by your peers, especially when it's down to just three guys," Maciocia said. "Watching the video presentations of the three coaches, obviously does something to you because it's basically a summary of the 2005 season."

A coach of the year award would have capped off an incredible first season for Maciocia. The Montreal native spent three years as the Eskimos offensive co-ordinator before getting the head coaching reins last season.

Under Maciocia, the Eskimos finished third in the West Division, but went on to defeat the Stampeders and the B.C. Lions, on the road, before knocking off the Montreal Alouettes in the Grey Cup game.

'REACTIONS OF THE PLAYERS'

"I'm one that doesn't really look at nominations to see if I did something right or not," Maciocia said. "I base it more on the reaction of the players in the locker-room.

"You can attach that to the wins and losses that follow. But you definitely appreciate it, although I'm one that's not comfortable sitting there and getting that type of recognition. Having said that, it's clearly a special moment."

Maciocia lost out on the award to his former boss. Higgins spent 11 years with the Eskimos before resigning following the 2004 season. It's the second time he's been named coach of the year, winning back in 2003 with the Eskimos.

Last season, in his first year as Stampeders' head coach, Higgins guided his team to a second-place finish in the West Division with an 11-7 record.

"It's truly a reflection of the people you surround yourself with," said Higgins. "I empower them. I ask them to work as hard as they can and give them as much credit as I can and if anything goes wrong in the organization, it's my fault."

Although the Stampeders lost to the Eskimos in the West semifinal, Higgins did turn around a program which had failed to make the playoffs the three previous seasons.

Higgins took over a program that finished at 4-14 the previous season.

"I thought it was well-deserving," Maciocia said. "He took over an organization that hadn't been playoff bound for the last three years and brought them instant credibility.

"I can honestly say they were the toughest football team to play at the tail end of the season."


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