Esks great was an all-arounder

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

A week after the passing of former Eskimos great Bill Stevenson, tales of his pure athletic ability are still circulating.

Huskies director Mike Eurchuk chips in with the reminder that Stevenson, a 350-pounder during his playing days, could do more than dunk a basketball (a magical feat in itself for one of that size) or count his record-tying seven Grey Cup rings.

In the 1960s, Stevenson attended Jasper Place high school and wound up wrestling against future Eskimo teammate Joe Worobec in a city competition. Stevenson won, then told coaches he wouldn't continue to compete because the sport didn't turn him on.

Worobec went on to finish fourth in the 1969 world junior championships.

While still in school, Stevenson - with almost no preparation - won city and provincial championships in discus and shot put.

What levels might he have reached, in any sport, if his dedication had matched his ability?

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Golden Bears football coach Jerry Friesen told me recently that he hadn't planned on any changes with his coaching staff. Even so, word persists that offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Terry Eisler won't be part of the program much longer.

After two 7-and-1 seasons that convinced University of Alberta faithful that a Canada West title, and perhaps more, was within reach, the Bears fell to 4-and-4 last season.

The loss of quarterback Darryl Salmon and running back Jared Winkel had a lot to do with the team's offensive decline. Tendayi Jozzy put up good numbers in Winkel's old spot, but veteran Cam Linke and bright youngster Quade Armstrong were a long way short of Salmon's value.

It's an old story. Someone has to be the scapegoat.

If Eisler winds up on the outside looking in, his wife Laurie, who oversees the high-level Pandas volleyball program, would have less reason to stay in Edmonton.

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After David Youngs won his fifth Alberta 4A high school hoops championship as coach of the Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds, I asked if he had been receiving offers to coach at college or university levels.

The question seemed reasonable. Jobs come open every year and the man is a winner. But Youngs laughed off any suggestion that he will move quickly beyond high school ranks.

"I don't have the coaching certifications that I would need to be considered," Youngs said with no apparent regret in his voice. "All I know is what coach (Don) taught me when I played, and what I've picked up since then."

Which leads me to two conclusions:

Too often, officials spend time certifying coaches at one level or another when they should simply be looking for talent.

The Youngs situation is an excellent example: he proves that it's possible to achieve more with hard work and commitment than with any label provided by Canada's growing supply of bureaucratic sports systems.

2. Horwood gets a lot of credit for his contributions to Edmonton and Alberta basketball - but not nearly as much as he deserves.

Many years go, Horwood called me at home to object that I had told a radio audience he was an excellent coach.

"You don't know anything about it," he said. "You're not qualified to judge."

He settled down when he learned the compliment came originally from Jack Donahue, then in the process of taking the national hoops program to its highest level in history.

"Don's teams always work hard - especially on defence," Donahue said. "Their system is good for the talent that they have. And they always play better after he calls a timeout."

Three of the four coaches in 4A semifinals last weekend - Youngs, George Hoyt of Harry Ainlay and Don (Tex) Phillips of Paul Kane -played for Horwood or worked as a Golden Bear assistant. All give him much praise for their coaching success.

Many other high school and top ACAC coaches make similar comments.

Phil Allen of Lakeland College, for one, insists Horwood belongs in the Canadian basketball hall of fame.

But first, Horwood should be inducted to the City of Edmonton Hall of Fame and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.

The good news? It won't be long before at least one of those milestones is reached.


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