Pinball to bounce?

Argos coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons has no desire to coach the rest of his life, fuelling...

Argos coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons has no desire to coach the rest of his life, fuelling speculation that this might be his last season on the sidelines. (SUN MEDIA FILE/Jason Franson)

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

The Argos may just have found one more motivation as they wait to see who they will face for the East Division championship next week.

They might want to win one for the Pinner. It could be their last chance.

While coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons declined to confirm reports that he has had conversations with team management that would see him retire after this season, he didn't deny them, either.

"Every time could be the last time," Clemons said yesterday, playing coy. "If you're asking will I coach again? It seems like every year the question is asked."

And, every year since taking over midway through the 2002 season he has returned on a one-year contract, saying he doesn't believe in long-term deals and that he is an Argo for life. But he allowed yesterday that being an Argo for life doesn't necessarily equate to being the head coach, the president or even employed by the team.

"When I say I'm an Argo for life, what I mean is that even if I were to go take a job in the States, I'd still have Argos season tickets," he said. "And if I had a chance to take a different (job) they'd still have my heart."

All of which leaves open the door to his departure. Yesterday, he couldn't just say: "No! I'm not going."

Clemons always has maintained that he doesn't want to be a career coach and he is close to becoming that having rescued the Argonauts from turning into a circus act under John Huard in 2000. Since then he has taken the team to the Eastern final five times and, in 2004, to a Grey Cup win. He has been a finalist for coach of the year five times and the fact he hasn't won it could show up someday on an episode of Cold Case. But the fact he has been there, done that wouldn't be the impetus to leave.

"I don't believe in (leaving when you're on top), Clemons said. "I think that's a cop-out when people say guys should go at a certain time. I'm not a big believer in guys walking off into the sunset."

He never asked for this public discussion on his future and doesn't want to become a distraction to the team.

"In terms of approach and what that means for our team? Every year we want to win and this year we're 60 minutes away from going to the Grey Cup and, not only that, going to the Grey Cup in your own city. Hasn't happened since 1994.

"We understand how tough it is to do that. I don't think anything could motivate us more. I never had the opportunity to play in a Grey Cup in my home city. This is a great opportunity."

In football, it may be his ultimate opportunity. In life, it is not. And, that is reason enough to make him consider walking away. He says he has to discuss it with his wife. Minutes later, he says he already has.

"As I discussed it with her and mentioned the possibility she was a bit upset with me," he said. "So, I don't know how long this is going to last."

Two games and out, seems reasonable. It is two decades since Clemons first donned double blue which is a long time to dedicate to a profession for a man who always has wanted to do something more; to do something to make a difference in the world. As great an ambassador as Clemons is for the Argos, he yearns to help humanity in a larger sense. Active in his Oakville church and community, he always has preached that there is more to life than numbers on a scoreboard.

"At some point, the transition is going to come and my wife may very well tell me on the first of December that time is right now. And, if she does, I'm going to heed that call," Clemons said.

This year, he started the Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation which provides educational opportunities for youths locally and in Africa.

"I don't believe I'm a career coach," Clemons said. "There are other things I want to do. This year. we had the official launch of our foundation and that's certainly what I want to be investing time in ... building new lives for people. Ultimately that is my No. 1 passion. There's no hesitation and reservation about that."

He has taken a team from the brink of receivership to one Grey Cup celebration and the brink of another.

Attendance is up. Ownership has never seemed more solid.

The timing for all this to become public is awkward but in the larger sense his work here, as head coach, is done.


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