Coach bleeds Blue

KIRK PENTON, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

Each week a Sun staffer gets to know a sports figure a little better in Up Close. This week, Kirk Penton gets on the horn to chat with Bombers head coach Mike Kelly about his interesting first year at the helm.

SUN: How are things?

MK: I am very happy in my life. I love what I do for a living, I know I've got a lot of people who care for me, and I'm in a good place right now. I have complete understanding of the situation that I've created, and I take responsibility for it, and I'll be better.

SUN: What's "the situation?"

MK: That there's an awful lot of apprehension as to what my abilities are professionally and there's apprehension of 'Can I handle myself in a better manner with the media?' I am taking every step that I can to make sure that we don't have some of the conflicts that we had last year, that there is more of a support staff to help out with the media relations.

SUN: Does your relationship with the media matter? It seems to be talked about so much.

MK: It's talked about ad nauseum, but in Winnipeg it does matter. In Winnipeg, some of that stuff just did not come off the way it would here (in Philadelphia), so I need to be more conscious of that, that I'm not in Philadelphia and that people react differently. And I should be more aware of that, because Winnipeg is the city that I've lived the longest in my life. And I should be more conscious of that. But I also think that because I've lived in Winnipeg so long that I earned a couple of mulligans, if you will, to say some of the things that I do. I really had trouble understanding some of the reactions that we were getting, because I didn't remember Winnipeg that way. I have to be better, and I understand that, and I will be. I might not be very smart, but I'm not dumb either. I get it, and I'll be better.

SUN: Lyle Bauer has said that he and everyone else is in limbo until the board of directors meets. Do you feel that uncertainty as well?

MK: I try to ignore it, because I have a job to do. They can have whatever meetings they need to have. I still have a job to do. We consummated the deal with Calgary to get Derek Armstrong, who I think has abilities to help us. We're constantly talking about what we're going to be doing this off-season, what we are doing this off-season, specific spots that we need to address on our football club. I really don't think that our football team's very far away. You can take our 7-11 and Calgary's 10-7-1, and I don't think there's a whole lot of difference there. I just don't.

SUN: What was your proudest moment of 2009?

MK: Walking out on the field in Game 18 knowing that we were playing a game that meant something and that we had 29,000 fans there dressed in blue. I was very proud that we were able to hold that football team together and keep a competitive edge and be one of the four teams that were playing for three playoff spots the last week of the season.

SUN: What was your biggest regret of 2009?

MK: You can answer a question the same way eight times. It's that ninth time that's going to get you on YouTube. I just wish I would've not been as reactionary as I was to some of the prodding by the media. I understand the media, and I understand that all of you have a job to do and you have a directive from people up above as to how everyone needs to be. I need to be more -- in front of the camera -- like I was in front of the football team, which was even-keel, believing what we were doing and not getting too high or too low. I was a Jekyll and Hyde when it came to how I spoke to our football team and how I spoke publicly. And I have to be better than that.

SUN: What's up with the quarterback position?

MK: We think we have some talented guys here, and we ended the season with zero quarterbacks that had been in training camp. And training camp is huge. It is absolutely huge. We just didn't get to some of the things that we knew we had to get to, but we didn't have the time to instill what needs to be instilled once we were into the season. Are we going to be looking at some free-agent quarterbacks? Have discussions already begun in a very infantile way? Yes. And are there players on our neg list that we think have the potential? Yes. But we also understand that we have to have players that have had some kind of experience with the CFL in order to be successful early. And I understand that we need to be successful early next year, because that snowball will grow rapidly.

SUN: So, as of now, Michael Bishop and Stefan LeFors are still coming back?

MK: As of this moment, yes.

SUN: What about the offensive co-ordinator? Is that still up in the air?

MK: Right now I'm not prepared publicly to make any kind of statement, but I do think that we're on the right track in what we're doing.

SUN: What are your plans for the holidays?

MK: I'm trying to be with my daughters as much as I can. They've both been promoted to the varsity (basketball) team as ninth and 10th graders, which makes me so proud. I get great pride in that. I watched them play last night, and I had a softball in my throat on several occasions. So I'm going to try to spend as much time as I can with them, and just enjoy relaxing. I actually saw my ex-wife last night, and she said, 'How many beers did you have before you came here?' I said, 'I haven't had any. I'm just emotionally and physically exhausted right now.' And hopefully over the next couple of weeks I can get myself back.

SUN: You're still emotionally and physically exhausted from the season?

MK: Yes, I really am. I threw myself into it. I know there's a group out there that truly appreciates how I feel about being the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and what the Blue Bombers mean to me. For some of the things to happen this year and the fan reactions, they were draining. It was draining on me. I want this team to succeed so bad, and I don't want to be a detriment to the team or the league. I want to be an asset to the team and the league. I don't know if I was always viewed that way, regardless of the effort that I was putting in. And I want to be better. You can't be more humble than that.

SUN: So we'll see you next year?

MK: I'll be there. I'll be the bald guy on the sideline. And I'll probably still be me. But I'll be me in a better way.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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