Obie's Lion low ... for now

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

It will be a question asked of him all week.

"When you comin' back, Obie?"

He'd prefer to talk about 1983.

In 1983, the Toronto Argos and B.C. Lions played for the Grey Cup. They had never done so before and they haven't since. Cedric Minter was Toronto's star running back. Condredge Holloway started at quarterback. Joe Barnes relieved him in the second half and was the game's most outstanding player. The Argos won by a score of 18-17, their first Grey Cup in 31 years. Bob O'Billovich was the coach.

"We sure had some great players ... it was the first time an East Division team won 12 games," O'Billovich, a former defensive back with the Ottawa Rough Riders, said on the penthouse floor of the Crowne Plaza hotel yesterday. "I remember everything about that Grey Cup."

And now he's at this one, the director of player personnel with a Lions team that wants to even the score. He scouts and evaluates talent and talks to Wally Buono regularly, but when players greet him they don't call him Bob or Obie or Mr. Director but "coach." Every single one of them.

O'Billovich looks great, but he did turn 64 in June. His coaching days are done, aren't they?

"It would have to be a unique situation ... something exciting," he said. "But I really haven't thought about it in the last few years."

He may have to give it some serious consideration soon. The Renegades are expected to make some franchise-molding moves next week. Ownership's structure will begin to change, perhaps even add a Glieberman or two.

GM Eric Tillman and coach Joe Paopao could be re-signed, but the betting is one or both will get the golden handshake.

If there is a change, O'Billovich will be interviewed for a position with the team. It could be that of GM/coach.

He says he wouldn't leave his post with the Lions for a lateral move, but he also doesn't want to talk specifically about the Renegades situation.

'SO MANY RUMOURS'

"There have been so many rumours, so much speculation," O'Billovich said, shaking his head, "but until they get that thing decided, it's kind of not right to talk about it. I do consider both those guys friends ... that's why it's not right."

Generally speaking, O'Billovich wouldn't rule out any offer until "having the opportunity to talk to somebody about it first hand."

A lifetime ago, when he went to Toronto to work, "people thought I was nuts," he said.

Hypothetically, O'Billovich was asked, if he was the GM of a team, would he consider Paopao a coaching candidate?

With his answer, he sounded like he was putting himself in the position here.

"It would be one of those deals where you'd have to talk to Joe and find out for yourself what went wrong," he said. "You'd want to know what he thinks of his team." Whoever coaches the Renegades next season -- whether it's Paopao or O'Billovich or Edmonton defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall or ex-NFL great Forrest Gregg or a man to be named later -- the individual will be under significant pressure to put together a winning season.

It won't be easy, either. The Hamilton Ticats are no longer a pushover. The Argos will either be the Grey Cup champs or the runner-ups. And the Montreal Alouettes will be hungry to get back to the dance.

"Coaching is not a 9-to-5 job," said O'Billovich, "and it's not a year-to-year job. It doesn't matter what you did the year before you won the Grey Cup, and if we win it this week, next year we'll be expected to win it again."

If O'Billovich picks up a championship ring on Sunday and then winds up in Ottawa next season, he won't necessarily be expected to win another next season. A playoff game or two might do.

But if you run into him at some point in the next three days, talk to him instead about the 1983 Grey Cup.


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