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Argos finally name their man

by Campbell Blake
January 23, 2002 - Canadian Football League (CFL)

The wait is over - the Toronto Argonauts have finally found their man. The Argonauts' journey to find a new head coach has ended with a familiar face to the team's fans. He is taking on the daunting task of leading the good old ship to back to its winning ways. When their former field boss, Michael Clemons, was elevated to the position of president at the conclusion of the 2001 season by team owner Sherwood Schwartz, the search for a new head coach was on. It now has ended with the naming of the team's former defensive line coach from when they last won the Grey Cup, Gary Etcheverry. being named as the successor to Clemons.

"I am impressed with his knowledge and approach to the game, he had a strong football mind," said Schwarz. "Gary tasted Grey Cup success as an Argonaut back in 1997 and I look forward to him leading us to that championship again".

While this will be Etcheverry's first time around as a head coach at the professional level, he was the head coach at Macalester College, which is located in Minnesota, from 1990-93. Over the 20 years or so Etcheverry has been a coach, he has had stops in many places including Occidental College, the University of San Diego and with the Hamburg Blue Devils over in Germany. He initially joined the Argonauts in 1997 as the squad's defensive line coach, a post he held through the 1998 season. When Jim Barker was appointed the team's head coach prior to the 1999 season, he elevated Etcheverry to the position of defensive coordinator. Since leaving the Argonauts following the 1999 season, Etcheverry has been the defensive coordinator both with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (2000) and the B.C. Lions (2001).

Along with the Argonauts, he was a wanted man by several teams including Montreal and Ottawa since he is considered by many to be one of the best defensive minds in the CFL. This fact is magnified when you consider that in his three years as a coach on the Argonauts coaching staff, the team finished first in many defensive categories. In 1999 when he was the defensive coordinator, the Argos finished first in 11 of the league's 25 defensive categories. They also placed in the top three of seven more categories.

"Gary was my immediate choice to be named my successor, and we think that this is the right decision," said Clemons. "He is a great teacher and extremely organized. The key factor is that defense win championships in this league, and we have the defensive guru of the CFL".

With his expertise on the defensive side of the ball, it will be very important for Etcheverry to surround himself with coaches that he knows and feels comfortable with, along with ones that most importantly will be respected by the players.

"Our number one thing is to put in place a strong coaching staff, so anyone who is going to deal with the players has to be a great teacher," said Etcheverry. "I would like to think that every coach we have will be the best at their position".

When it comes to identifying the Argonauts, Michael Clemons is front and center. He is one of the most beloved people within the Toronto community for his countless hours spent as a voice of encouragement. He was one of the greatest players in franchise history, but he could not translate the success he had on the field to coaching. Many people suggested that the appointment to head coach came too soon, which could be correct when you consider he became head coach within days of playing his last game. Having the experience of a coach like Etcheverry will allow the Argonauts to grow as a team, and improve on areas where they struggled under the guidance of the inexperienced Clemons. One Argonaut who agrees with this theory is defensive back Marcello Simmons who played with and for Clemons, while having also played under Etcheverry during his first tenure with the team.

"I think having Pinball move into the head office and really taking a background role, while letting Etch come in with a little more coaching experience, bring back a lot of the good things to the Argos," said Simmons.

So now that the Argonauts have a head coach in place, it will be up to Gary Etcheverry along with general manager Paul Massotti to make sure that the team is on the right path to regaining the success that the good old ship has had in the past. To do this, the right players will also have to be retained along with signing a few free agents who can improve the roster. So while the naming of Etcheverry to the position of head coach will not automatically guarantee success, either on or off the field, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Argo Notes: It is believed Etcheverry will hire Hamilton Tiger-Cats special teams coach Daryl Edralin as his defensive coordinator and B.C. offensive line coach Bill Dobson in a similar capacity as well as the added role of offensive coordinator. The future of John Jenkins, the team's offensive coordinator last season, appears uncertain, though he has a year left on his contract. The Argonauts hold the CFL rights to 2001 Heisman award winner Eric Crouch, who has just concluded his college career at the University of Nebraska. There is speculation that if he wants to play in the NFL it would be as a defensive back or receiver. If he wants to remain a quarterback when he makes the move to the pro level, on the other hand, it could very well be as a member of the Toronto Argonauts. The Argos are working on a significant marketing strategy which is expected to be revealed later this month or early next month.

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Canadian Football League Stories from January 23, 2002

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