CFL’s ‘Don’ passes on

Leg­endary Hall of Famer won 5 Grey Cups as head coach

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They called him “The Don,’’ and with good rea­son. A larger-thanlife char­ac­ter with a sharp wit who thrived in the spot­light, Don Matthews took wicked plea­sure in keep­ing peo­ple around him on edge with his abra­sive, nonon­sense style.

The Hall of Famer, who died Wed­nes­day at the age of 77, was one of the most pro­lific coaches in CFL his­tory with 231 wins and 10 Grey Cup ti­tles on his re­sumé, in­clud­ing five won as a head coach.

But he was also a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure who had a high-risk, high-re­ward phi­los­o­phy. Play­ers loved suit­ing up for him be­cause of his rep­u­ta­tion for cre­at­ing a win­ning at­mos­phere and pro­tect­ing his ath­letes. Dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, Matthews’ teams rarely hit dur­ing prac­tice and he rou­tinely al­lowed his play­ers to par­tic­i­pate in cre­at­ing the weekly game plan.

Yet he main­tained his dis­tance. While known for be­ing a “player’s coach,’’ he could also be ruth­less when it came to mak­ing tough per­son­nel de­ci­sions.

“It’s that bal­ance and to do that you must be bril­liant,’’ said run­ning back/slot­back Mike (Pin­ball) Cle­mons, who won two Grey Cups over three sea­sons play­ing for Matthews in Toronto.

Matthews was also bru­tally hon­est, a trait re­porters cov­er­ing his teams knew well as he would call them out pub­licly for ask­ing what he deemed to be an in­ap­pro­pri­ate ques­tion. Matthews spent 22 sea­sons as a CFL head coach with B.C., Bal­ti­more, Saskatchewan, Ed­mon­ton, Toronto and Mon­treal. mike Cle­mons on matthews’ coach­ing style

It’s that bal­ance and to do that you must be bril­liant.

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