Last days of the Don?

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Don Matthews' expiry date is usually about now.

This is usually about the point where Matthews wears out his welcome. This is usually the point where he changes teams, towns, wives and modes of transportation.

After his six years as an assistant with Hugh Campbell's five-in-a-row Grey Cup Eskimos team, Matthews has had runs of four and a half years in B.C., one in Toronto, two and a half in Saskatchewan, two in Baltimore, three in Toronto, two in Edmonton and is two games into his fourth year here.

But this is different. When he took the head coaching job of the Montreal Alouettes, after being run off in Edmonton by his mentor Campbell, Matthews came here and said this would be his last job in football.

When this gig is up, Matthews will move into the home he's building in Kelowna, B.C.

"It's halfway up Big White," he said. "I've got water up there now. A big 5,000-gallon tank. And I've got one of those cowboy gates. Maybe I'll put 'DDM Ranch' on it," said Matthews of his initials. "Maybe under it I'll put 'Not As Good As Once Was But As Good, Once, As Ever Was.' I'm open to anything."

LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP

You don't get the sense that the winningest coach in CFL history, the man who has had a love-hate relationship with the media everywhere he's been, is in any hurry to ride off in the sunset.

Matthews, who started his coaching career directly from a high-school coaching job in Portland, Oregon, when hired by Campbell, is 66. And he's shown no signs of mellowing in his old age.

Two weeks ago he ran the sports columnist of the Hamilton Spectator off from practice here for being a spy. Yesterday the two Edmonton media members here for Friday's game against the Eskimos could have brought binoculars and climbed up a tree and Matthews would have held the ladder.

Yesterday was the love part of the love-hate relationship. He was engaging.

At first, when he drove his golf cart over to where the media stood on the practice field behind Olympic Stadium, he wasn't much into answering football questions. When he did, the answers were short. When asked if he thought the Eskimos - who had seven sacks in Winnipeg, six in Ottawa - could get four or five against Montreal.

"If they do, we're in trouble," said the coach of the team that gassed a 23-point lead in Ottawa Friday and failed to get out of the gate with a 3-0 or better record for the first time since 1996.

But then the subject turned to his CD What Time Is It? being advertised in yesterday's Montreal Gazette as, "The hit song of the summer" he became his engaging other self.

The record - using his speech to the crowd after the Grey Cup parade here two years ago - is apparently selling.

"Is it? Is it really? I had no idea.

"I had nothing to do with it. It was recorded without my knowledge. They put it altogether and then came to me. It involved no talent on my part. I had no idea. Is it getting played a lot on the radio? I'm not a radio kind of guy."

HIT CD

If his CD is a hit, does it mean Matthews popularity remains high and that maybe he can leg it out on his last job longer than he's ever been anywhere before?

"As long as I'm still enjoying it, I'll stay at it as long as I can," said the holder of the record for wins with 214 going into tomorrow's game against 2-0 Danny Maciocia.

"Practice is not as much fun as it used to be. But the games are something I can't get anywhere else," said the coach who put his PR guy's three-month-old son on the team's negotiation list the other day.

"When I took that year off after Edmonton, I was bored. I fished. I camped. I sobered up a friend. I was a pain in the ass.

"I'm not ready to retire. As soon as I know, I'll call you. I'm going to stay as long as I can continue harassing (sportswriters)," he said.

I asked if Matthews was intending to outlast his old mentor Campbell.

"When's he going?" asked the Don.

"Soon as you go," I suggested.

"He's going to have to wait a while."


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