REGINA - As far as head coaching debuts go, we’re going to go out on a limb and say Tim Burke’s was one of the worst in the history of professional sports.
Burke, named Winnipeg’s interim head coach last Saturday, had to suffer through his team’s 52-0 loss to the Roughriders on Sunday afternoon.
At least the 58-year-old rookie boss still had his sense of humour when he came out to face the media.
“Be kind,” he said with a smile.
Burke wasn’t heartbroken that his first game as a head coach ended so poorly; he was simply upset overall.
“Extremely disappointing,” he said. “I’d be disappointed if it was still Paul (LaPolice) as the head coach and I was the D co-ordinator and it happened this way. I’d be as disappointed.
“Just because I’m the head coach doesn’t make it more disappointing. It’s just extremely disappointing.”
Burke admitted not one phase of Winnipeg’s game was good for his last-place squad, but, as head coaches tend to do, he tried to accentuate the positive — even if there really weren’t any positives.
“In the second half the defence played a little better, at least initially,” he said. “We had those two turnovers fielding the kicks, and that put them in a bad spot. The score snowballs.
“I’m not saying we played very good, because we didn’t, but I thought we responded a little bit defensively in the second half. And even initially offensively we started to get something going, even when we were going against the wind, but it just never carried through.”
There was some loud yelling emanating from the Bombers locker-room after the game, but it was difficult to determine who was doing the screaming. Apparently the three speakers were Burke, offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton and GM Joe Mack.
According to one member of the team, there hadn’t been much yelling at the players under Paul LaPolice’s watch, which may be a sign the coaching staff is going to be tougher on them. Then again, he was never on the losing end of a 52-0 game either.
Burke didn’t have to make too many in-game decisions that were noticeable. He probably could have challenged a play where it appeared a Bomber made a catch, but the game was out of reach at that point anyway.
Burke vowed his team will get better. It can’t get any worse.
“I just said (to the team), ‘Hey, we’ve got a lot better talent than our record shows, and we have got to find a way to dig down deep and pull out the best performances we can pull out week after week after week.’ We can’t do anything less than that,” Burke said.
“All I can do is my best. I know the staff’s going to do the best they can. We’re not going to let the walls crumble down. I don’t think the players will give in. They’ll come back hard. We’ll give them a great game this week, and we’ll have a great game plan.”