November 20, 2012
TV's great, but Paul LaPolice misses sideline
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
This has to be a week of conflicting emotions for Paul LaPolice.
The former head coach of the Blue Bombers, fired in August, is back at the Grey Cup.
Only this time he’s not leading a team.
All the reminders of that career highlight will be there: the media buzz, the gathering of CFL fans from across the country — and shiny glimpses of the holy grail of three-down football. The trophy he didn’t quite get his mitts on.
The trouble is all those things will also remind LaPolice of what he lost when Bomber GM Joe Mack told him he was out of a job.
Now he’s on the outside, looking in, a member of the media, of all things, with no guarantee he’ll ever get another shot at his dream job.
“I certainly want to be a head coach again, and I think I can do a very good job with it,” LaPolice, already in Toronto, was saying, Tuesday. “But there’s not a lot of them around right now.”
Of course, he can’t dwell on any of that.
Because as a rookie member of TSN’s coverage, he’s all too often got a producer in his ear, telling him which camera to look at.
And he thought calling a critical play with the time clock winding down was tough.
“When they jump in and go, ‘Five, four, three, two, one, go — we’re live,’ that’s a little nerve-wracking,” LaPolice said. “Your adrenaline gets up.”
A bit like it gets up for coaching.
But just a bit.
Last Sunday he did live hits from B.C. Place, site of last year’s Grey Cup. Yet another reminder.
“I certainly miss the ability to be on that field,” LaPolice said. “You certainly miss the adrenaline.”
Among LaPolice’s TV duties is a segment called the Coach’s Playbook, an interesting title given it was his playbook that failed to please so many people in Winnipeg.
Grey Cup Wednesday it’ll be the coach’s news conference, the tradition that sees opposing coaches share a stage.
A year ago, LaPolice was answering questions about the ill-advised tweets of defensive end Odell Willis.
He won’t have to worry about that this week.
“Now it’s cool to be able to be in the Grey Cup,” he said. “I’ve never gone to the Grey Cup in a fan perspective. I’m going to work real hard, but it’s a little bit of a fan perspective, so that’s kind of neat.”
One thing hasn’t changed: LaPolice is watching plenty of film.
But he’s not ready to pick his Cup winner, yet.
He loves what he’s seen from Calgary, marveling at how the Stamps turned the tables on the B.C. Lions in the West Final. The same Lions his offence couldn’t find a way to beat, 12 months ago.
And he loved the way Toronto put the East Final in Ricky Ray’s hands, allowing him to shred a suspect Montreal defence, much like Kevin Glenn did with Hamilton in the 2011 East semifinal.
“In the semifinal last year against Calvillo, he out-dueled Calvillo and had an unbelievable game,” LaPolice said of Glenn. “I guess he didn’t have a good East Final against Winnipeg.”
That he said “Winnipeg” and not “us” is probably a sign that Coach LaPo is moving on.
With a year still to go on his Bomber contract, he’s in no hurry to get back into the pressure cooker.
But he wants back in, eventually, even if it means taking a step back.
“If you’ve got to be a co-ordinator, you’ve got to be a co-ordinator. If you’ve gotta be something else, you’ve gotta be something else. I always see head coaches, when they go back to being assistant coaches, they do a better job.
“You kind of get perspective.”
LaPolice says he learned “a million things” in his first head job.
And if there’s one thing he wished he’d done differently?
“I would trust my instincts and decisions more,” he said. “That would be the only thing.”
Unfortunately, like live TV, you don’t get a redo.