Student faces teacher

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

Poor Doug Berry. Just when he thought he'd escaped the shadow of Don Matthews, his old boss shows up.

Then again, what better way to begin a head coaching career in the CFL than against The Don himself?

Tonight, it's the student against his old teacher. The first-year Blue Bombers boss, who worked under Matthews for seven, face-to-face with the most successful coach in CFL history.

Zero career victories on one sideline, 242 on the other, five of 'em in Grey Cup games.

Of course, they won't start counting for real until the Bombers visit the Als in two weeks.

But don't think just because tonight's get together is a pre-season game that it'll be a warm and fuzzy reunion.

That's certainly not what Berry's expecting.

"I look forward to seeing him before the game, at mid-field, because I know he's going to try to get under my skin a little bit," the 57-year-old rookie was saying yesterday. "That's just the way Don is. I know he'll say something to me that'll try to get me off my game. I can't wait."

How, if at all, does one get Berry off his game? We don't know, yet.

There are a lot of things we don't know about Doug Berry. The things we do know have impressed us.

Start with his enthusiasm. This guy's absolutely thrilled to finally be a head coach.

Three decades in the coaching ranks and tonight, for the first time, he'll walk onto the field as the man in charge.

He's not sure exactly how he'll react.

"I may get nervous just before the game," Berry said. "Sometimes I've gone and sat in the stands ... like an hour before the game, and just watched guys warming up on their own, listening to the pre-game music. Sometimes I'll lie on the floor in the locker room and just look up at the ceiling. I don't know what I'm going to do."

If it turns out he does have a belly full of butterflies, he'll have to make sure it doesn't rub off on his players.

Don't expect him to follow Matthews' lead in that department, though.

Berry says The Don would loosen things up by breaking out in song.

"One of the favourites was Under the Boardwalk," Berry recalled. "I hope I don't project the fact that I'm uptight. If I do, I'll try to do something to show that I'm not. But I don't think it's going to be a problem."

Berry may not be nervous, but chances are every Bomber dressed will be.

Which is another thing we like about the new boss. Nobody's being handed a job.

OK, so Doug Brown, Charles Roberts, Barrin Simpson and Milt Stegall, who aren't playing tonight, have made the team already. But that's it.

And after a 5-13 season, that's how it should be.

"I think he's learned a little from Don Matthews," Stegall said. "I won't say he's an unfriendly guy, but he's a guy who wants everybody to feel uncomfortable. And I think that's good."

Stegall, who's been around through Cal Murphy, Jeff Reinebold, Dave Ritchie and Jim Daley, says Berry has a style all his own.

A nice guy -- with an edge.

"If you're not doing well, I don't think he'll hoot and holler," Stegall said. "You just won't be playing anymore."

That might be the most striking thing about Berry: there's no BS, just the straight goods. Like it, or not.

"Very pointed," Brown said. "He doesn't mince words with you. He's the kind of guy you listen to, because everything he's going to say has some thought and purpose and direction."

Funny thing is, Berry has no idea what he'll say to his old boss at midfield tonight.

Maybe he'll just take whatever shot Matthews has to dish out. After all, he's got the next three hours to deliver a comeback.

And the next six months to start proving he learned something all those years.


Videos

Photos