Bombers coach struck by Lightning

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:16 PM ET

Each week a Sun staffer gets to know a sports figure a little better in Up Close. This week Kirk Penton sits down with the newly minted head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Paul LaPolice.

SUN: So let me get this straight: You've decided to take a job closer to your in-laws?

PL: Yeah, they're from Selkirk. (slight pause, then laughs)

SUN: Just kidding. You and Brendan Taman used to date the two coaches of the Blue Lightning dance team, and you ended up marrying your girl. What was double dating with Brendan Taman like?

PL: (laughs) I don't know if that was established back in those days yet, Brendan and Dena.

SUN: Are you the most famous person from Nashua, N.H.?

PL: In football there's a guy named Greg Landry, who played in the NFL as a quarterback. A guy named Mike O'Malley, he's an actor. And Mandy Moore was born in Nashua, N.H. -- not that I know too much about that stuff.

SUN: So what was like life growing up there?

PL: New Hampshire's a great state. You're in Boston in an hour, you're at the ocean in an hour, you're in the mountains in an hour. So there was lots to do. I don't get back there much, but it was a lot of fun.

SUN: Tell us about your family.

PL: My family all still lives there in New Hampshire. My mother, and I have two older brothers.

SUN: How good of a receiver were you?

PL: I was average. I was a starter, and I started my junior and senior year, but I was average. I think I only had two career touchdowns. I was probably one of the harder working guys out there, though.

SUN: Did you always want to be a coach?

PL: I wouldn't say it's something I wanted to do since I was 10 years old, but as I got older I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I really enjoyed teaching. I know I'm moving up to be a head coach, but I like trying to teach. I love when you see a guy have success when it's something you helped him with. That's what I think drew me to coaching.

SUN: Who's the best player you've coached in the CFL?

PL: Milt Stegall.

SUN: How would you describe your offensive philosophy?

PL: We want to be the best ball security team in the CFL. That doesn't always work, but we're going to preach that and we're going to coach that from Day 1 -- controlling the football. We're going to be able to run the football. We're going to be able to attack defences on a multitude of fronts. We like a lot of formations. We like moving players all over the place. We want to take our best player, and if we need to get a better matchup we'll put in a formation. We're going to beat the blitz, which is something we do very well. I think we know how to beat the blitz. We're going to attack people.

SUN: How would you describe yourself when it comes to dealing with the players? Will you be a players' coach?

PL: This will be a new role for me, but as I've been in the league the players have had a lot of respect for me. I don't see that changing as a head coach. We do need structure, and the players want structure and discipline. We'll have that here. But it's not about just me. We gotta listen to the players. Part of why we've been successful where I've been is we had players who say, 'Coach, can we do it this way? Hey, this is what I was thinking.' We gotta build into the players and let the players take it over. Once they have ownership of it, you win championships.

SUN: There's been some confusion about your age this week. In newspaper stories from February 2000 you're listed as being 30 years old, which would make you 40 today -- yet you're only 39. What gives?

PL: There's a reason. When I got hired in Toronto I was 29 years old, but J.I. Albrecht, he was the general manager, he put in the press release and in the media guide I was older because he didn't want to have a 29-year-old on his staff. So that's what it was.

SUN: I hear you're a real estate buff.

PL: I have a few properties. I probably shouldn't have sold the one in Winnipeg.

SUN: Favourite TV show?

PL: Probably Lost right now.

SUN: Most famous person in your cellphone?

PL: Milt Stegall or Pinball Clemons. Khari Jones is in there.

SUN: Favourite movie of all time?

PL: Oh gawd, there's so many. That's kind of my thing.

SUN: You're a movie guy?

PL: I'm a big movie guy. If I wasn't a coach I'd like to produce movies, because it's like building a team, building structure from year to year. What is my favourite movie ... I'll have to get back to you on that one. I don't know.

SUN: Who do you like in the Super Bowl and why?

PL: I think the Saints. I just think they're very creative, but they didn't play real good last week on defence. I like the offence. I'm going to cheer for the team that hasn't won in a while, so the Saints.

SUN: Finally, considering you married somebody from the Bombers cheerleading squad, isn't it fitting that you're the Blue and Gold's head coach now?

PL: Yeah. I mean, we'll have to put some rules in place. Don't date the Blue Lightning, right? I think that rule was in place back in the day.

SUN: She was a coach, though.

PL: Yeah, she was a coach, so that's how we got around that rule. You guys (the media) would be sitting in Coach (Dave) Ritchie's office, and we'd walk by -- me and Brendan -- and he'd go, 'There's my two lovebirds! I can't get any work done because of these two guys!'

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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