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Plain talk from the Bombers' new field boss

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Sometimes the answer to a silly question can be more telling and when Mike O'Shea shot back Wednesday about his sideline apparel it provided a window into what he's really all about.

"I'll wear whatever outfit allows me to win," said O'Shea, appearing a little irked but clearly prepared for the question at the press conference to announce his hiring as Winnipeg's new head coach.

For the last four years, O'Shea has patrolled the Argos' sideline in a T-shirt. Boiled down, that is Mike O'Shea. If a tutu would guarantee wins, sign him up.

A hard-working and fierce competitor with a reputation for being a winner. O'Shea won't be about the perks of his position and he won't be satisfied until his organization is a winner.

Winnipeggers will love him from the start and if he can deliver a Grey Cup, they'll love him forever.

Sure, every head coach likely has a similar mindset, but O'Shea will do whatever is required to live up to his own expectations and more importantly, he has the skills to do it.

O'Shea's knowledge of the Canadian game is instinctive, as are his personal communication skills. He has the rare ability to always speak plainly and deliver his message directly and positively. O'Shea may tell a player he's not cutting it but the player will be left wanting to do more to live up to the coach's expectations.

"I believe in a positive message. Players don't want to make mistakes and I don't want to deal with them in a negative manner," said O'Shea. "I don't want any negativity around the team or the organization."

Bombers fans are correct to question his lack of head coaching experience and until he's proven he can win in the big chair it will be an easy fallback position for critics.

But coaching is about more than experience and obviously every head coach was once in O'Shea's position, including CFL legends such as Bud Grant, Don Matthews and Wally Buono.

O'Shea has the intangibles. A strong personality, inner confidence bred from an athletic life of being the best at his position and a work ethic that powered his need to be at the top.

I've never played checkers with O'Shea but I know it would be intense.

"He was a hard-ass on the field and always at the right place at the right time," said Bombers assistant GM Danny McManus, who both played with and against O'Shea in the CFL.

"He was the leader of the defence and played for 60 minutes no matter what the score was. He's an instant leader. He was a good teacher as a player and I'm sure he will be as a coach. Leadership is both vocal and what you do. He did it the right way and he did the game justice. Sometimes guys take advantage of the game and those are the guys you don't want."

The Bombers have made a lot of mistakes over the last few years and until O'Shea proves to be a winner, this hiring is open for questioning.

No one can argue he's a proven winner as a head coach but it's difficult to argue the foundation for success isn't within O'Shea.

"Being from North Bay you try not to talk about yourself but I guess this is the forum where you have to do it," said O'Shea. "You know, I have played for 16 years. I have four Grey Cup rings. I have been around a lot of winners, been coached by a lot of winners. I have learned from the guys that maybe weren't also. So you get a handle of what's going to work and what's maybe not."

The work, and there is a lot of it to do, begins right away for O'Shea.

"Well there is probably a list but I'm going to start by trying to infuse what I believe I understand to be winning traditions, winning, just the concept of winning and how you produce that," said O'Shea. "And it's the daily grind. It's how you approach the daily routine of coming to practice, and how you win every meeting, how you win every practice, and that translates to winning on the field. And it's going to be based on -- I'm a pretty simple guy -- it's going to be based on effort, hard work, it's going to be based on creating a team of players that are very passionate. They've got to love the game to be able to be a Bomber football player."

Being a Bomber and what the organization has stood for hasn't been a positive thing for some time. That all changed Tuesday.

Pack up the paper bags. It's time to break out the T-shirts. Maybe they'll even be the kind they print up after a championship.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Are three rookies running the Bombers too many? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 5, 2013 D1

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