Austin gets his coaching ‘continuity’
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.