Eric Tillman has ended up with the head coach he chose not to hire.
The Edmonton Eskimos new general manager has been reunited with former Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall -- the man he passed over for that club's head-coaching job in favour of Ken Miller in 2008.
"There wasn't a right or wrong choice," said Tillman, the Roughriders general manager from 2006 until he resigned in January. "There were two good options at that point. There were a lot of reasons why I went with Ken and his success (speaks for itself).
"Ken's been nominated as head coach of the year twice and I think what he's accomplished has validated that decision. But it doesn't say anything about Richie. Richie knows how I feel about him."
Tillman said Hall turned down a deal with the Roughriders that would have made him the highest-paid defensive co-ordinator in the league, to come to Edmonton.
"I like Richie, I respect him. We've got a great personal relationship through the years," Tillman said. "During my challenging period I've heard from him often. We're in a business where there are no promises."
Meaning relationship or not, Tillman's second-choice head coach is not guaranteed his job for the rest of the season.
"I've learned that you never make absolute statements in this business," Tillman said. "It's my hope, it's my desire that Richie's here not only through this season but for years to come. This is a results-oriented business and we understand that. You make no promises other than I am going to everything I can to help him be successful and I'm hoping for the best."
The one thing Tillman can guarantee over the rest of the season is that Eskimos fans can expect to see some changes to the makeup of the team.
"There will be some, but I'm going to have one eye on the present and one on the future," Tillman said. "This is an unusual dynamic and I'm more comfortable talking about it because I've been in these moccasins before."
As a general manager, Tillman has guided three teams to a Grey Cup championship, beginning with the B.C. Lions in 1994, the Toronto Argonauts in 1997 and the Roughriders in 2007.
"I think you have to, when you come into a situation like this, is be respectful to the people who were here before," Tillman said. "Give Richie a higher degree of latitude than you would. I'll make recommendations to him on a daily basis."
But that doesn't mean he expects Hall to act differently than he normally would.
"What you have to be as a head coach is true to what you are," Tillman said. "What players respond to are people who are genuine and real. Every head coach has a different set of strengths and I think from a manager's standpoint what you try to do is identify what your head coach does well "¶ and work around and try to complement those areas that maybe aren't strengths."
And Tillman doesn't plan on wasting any time getting to work, either.
"It is about getting to the playoff and making a run," he said.