Austin gets his coach­ing ‘con­ti­nu­ity’

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW ED­WARDS

There are many things Kent Austin val­ues in a coach­ing staff but two things stand out above all else: fa­mil­iar­ity and con­ti­nu­ity.

They seem like the same thing — and some in cases they are — but as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats un­veiled their 2017 coach­ing staff Thurs­day, the sub­tle dif­fer­ences were on dis­play, too.

Much of the 2016 staff is back, on both sides of the foot­ball.

Jeff Reinebold slides from spe­cial teams co-or­di­na­tor to de­fen­sive leader, while former McMaster head coach Ste­fan Ptazsek re­turns for a sec­ond sea­son as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. As­sis­tants Corey Grant (run­ning backs), Mike Marku­son (of­fen­sive line), as well as Den­nis McPhee (de­fen­sive line) and James Stan­ley (de­fen­sive backs) have been with the club at least one sea­son and, in the case of Reinebold, Grant, Stan­ley and McPhee, for Austin’s en­tire four-year run.

“We def­i­nitely be­lieve in con­ti­nu­ity, for the right rea­son — if they weren’t a qual­i­fied coach, that wouldn’t mat­ter,” Austin said. “But fa­mil­iar­ity with our play­ers, es­pe­cially with a short train­ing camp, makes con­ti­nu­ity more valu­able.”

There are a cou­ple of new faces, most no­tably spe­cial teams co-or­di­na­tor Den­nis McKnight, who played 11 years as an of­fen­sive line­man in the NFL be­fore mov­ing into coach­ing. His ex­pe­ri­ence in­cludes one sea­son with the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos and plenty of NCAA time.

Most crit­i­cally for Austin, McKnight was the spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor for South­ern Methodist Univer­sity at a time when Reinebold was on staff as the re­ceivers coach. “He’s got a great deal of ex­pe­ri­ence in that area, and he also has a re­la­tion­ship with Jeff and they both come out of the same sys­tem and way of think­ing on how to coach spe­cial teams,” Austin said. “He’s fun­da­men­tally sound, he’s tech­ni­cally sound, he’s knowl­edgable, he knows how to coach on the field, he knows how to mo­ti­vate. He can help in other oth­ers if need be be­cause he has ex­pe­ri­ence as an of­fen­sive line­man and as a coach.”

Also join­ing the staff are de­fen­sive run-game co-or­di­na­tor and lineback­ers coach Phillip Lol­ley, who held the lat­ter ti­tle with the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers last sea­son, and Wil­liam Fields as a de­fen­sive and spe­cial-teams as­sis­tant.

Austin said he didn’t know Lol­ley be­fore the hir­ing process started — or McKnight for that mat­ter — but he went through a very thor­ough vet­ting process with all the new­com­ers.

“You’ll have ex­ter­nal peo­ple that will call, in­ter­nal peo­ple that have fa­mil­iar re­la­tion­ships, peo­ple in the league that have coached with him that are trust­wor­thy,” Austin said.

“You har­ness as many sources as pos­si­ble, but I also spent a lot of time with th­ese guys,” the coach added.

Austin’s role on staff may evolve, too. Af­ter the sud­den de­par­ture of of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Tommy Con­dell last spring, the head coach was heav­ily in­volved in game plan­ning, and called the plays dur­ing 2016.

But Ptazsek could be tak­ing over those re­spon­si­bil­i­ties this sea­son.

“We’re work­ing to­ward that goal and we be­lieve he’ll be pre­pared to do that,” Austin said.

That would be a change, to be sure.

But one that would be both fa­mil­iar and al­low for con­ti­nu­ity — just the way Austin likes it.


Kent Austin has rounded out his coach­ing staff for the 2017 sea­son.

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