Eventful first year

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Doug Berry. (SUN/Jason Halstead)

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Doug Berry. (SUN/Jason Halstead)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

Doug Berry is in a good mood, laughing and gesturing to get his point across.

No wonder. He's finally getting some time off.

On his way back to New England to catch up with friends and family over the holidays, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers boss sat down with the Sun yesterday to discuss his first 12 months as a football head coach.

Tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of Berry's hiring, and he's barely had a chance to catch his breath since.

So, what's the best part about being a head coach?

"Is there one?" Berry asked. "I don't know. There's just so much to do. Until you experience it, you don't know. The best part? Gosh, I don't know. It's not like I get off on being a boss, or anything like that.

"I'm more responsible for it. Other than that, I can't say there's anything great about being a head coach."

It's certainly been an eventful year.

There's the touchdown he'll never forget. One decision he'd like to have back.

And the one play that ended it all, a play that should never have happened.

***

"Attitude is Everything," reads the framed wall-hanging in Berry's office, and it says everything about what the 58-year-old believes in.

Changing the attitude in the Bomber locker-room is what Berry is most proud of.

"There were a lot of issues," he said of the team he took over. "Different guys going in different directions, and different factions for this and that. I really believe these guys believe in themselves, and understand it's not a game with a bunch of I's.

"They take care of each other. I'm part of that, because I make some of those decisions. We've got a good locker-room. A great foundation for us to start off next year."

After seeing the team improve from five wins to nine, Berry has already set his goals for 2007: between 10 and 12 wins and a home playoff game.

The Bombers may have experienced that in '06, if it weren't for an Aug. 25th home loss to Toronto -- the game in which Berry made the one decision he second-guesses to this day.

Leading the Argos 15-10 in the fourth quarter, Berry chose to gamble on third down rather than attempt a 43-yard field goal. The gamble failed, and the Bombers lost, 18-15.

"I did it one way and probably could have done it the other way," Berry said, agonizing as he relived the moment. "That one had big implications."

It wasn't Berry's low point of the season, though. There were a few of those.

Leading the list, Kevin Glenn's interception that killed Winnipeg's last drive against the Argos in the East semi-final.

"Kevin over-thought the whole thing," Berry said. "If he'd just done what the play initially told him to do, we'd still be on the field."

The highlight? That's easy: Milt Stegall's last play, 100-yard touchdown catch to beat Edmonton.

"I see Milt make that catch, and I'm trying to keep up with him. I couldn't believe it," Berry said, his eyes lighting up as if it had happened five minutes earlier.

"It's just the epitome of disaster to exuberance. I've been in some games that went right to the end... but never a 100-yard play."

The worst part about his new job? Having to cut players he likes, particularly players who were committed to living in Winnipeg, something Berry values.

In taking the Bombers back to the playoffs, Berry will likely garner a few votes as the CFL coach of the year.

To which he says, no thanks.

"I don't want it. It always seems to be a bad omen. If that's the case, I'm pushing it to Wally (Buono)."

***

Back to Berry's office where, on the same wall as the "Attitude is Everything" sign hangs a championship banner from 1990, the last year the Bombers won a Grey Cup.

And the next item Berry plans to post on the wall?

"That's coming down," Berry said, referring to the '90 banner.

No gestures. No pointing. Nothing animated about it.

But still getting his point across.

Contact Paul at pfriesen@wpgsun.com or 632-2788.

"We've got a good locker-room. A great foundation for us to start off next year."

Bombers coach

Doug Berry


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