Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Boyhood dream comes true

Burke grew up wanting to follow in footsteps of legend Bear Bryant

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Tim BURKE has wanted to be like Bear Bryant since he was a little kid growing up in tiny Homestead, Iowa (pop. 100).

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers would also like Burke to be just like the one-time winningest head coach in NCAA history and on Thursday announced they would give him the chance as they removed the label "interim" from Burke's title and officially made him the 29th head coach in Bombers franchise history.

And with that, a six-year-old kid who fell in love with the idea of being a coach while watching NCAA football at his grandparents' house on this new thing called "colour television" has finally achieved a lifelong dream in becoming, with no asterisks this time, a 58-year-old rookie head coach.

"My grandparents had a colour TV, which not many people did at that time -- which obviously dates me," Burke recalled Thursday.

"I remember Bear Bryant prowling up and down the sidelines as the head coach at the University of Alabama... And I thought to myself, 'That's what I want to be someday. When I'm done playing, I want to be a coach. And some day I want to be head coach.'

"So for me, this is a dream come true."

It also has the potential to be a nightmare. The Bombers are just 3-6 since Burke took over from Paul LaPolice in late August and are 5-12 overall as they head into their final regular-season game Saturday at Canad Inns Stadium against the Montreal Alouettes.

Burke largely gets a free pass on what the club has done since he took over from LaPolice in mid-season, but starting next year there will no longer be any grace period for the head coach of a football team whose championship drought will enter its 23rd year and whose fan base is as collectively angry and agitated as they've perhaps ever been.

Burke said he will "probably" bring back the existing Bombers coaching staff in 2013, praising the crew he inherited from LaPolice as among the most knowledgeable he's ever worked with.

But there will be at least one fresh coaching face next year -- Burke says he will hire a new defensive co-ordinator to replace himself after doing that job, the head coach's job and the job of defensive backs coach for the past couple of months on his own.

Burke said he was hopeful to have a new man in place soon.

Candidates

The leading candidates would almost certainly include Bombers linebacker coach Chip Garber, who was the defensive co-ordinator for the Toronto Argonauts in 2010-11, and current Hamilton defensive co-ordinator and former Bombers linebackers coach Casey Creehan, who is close to Burke and might find himself looking for work this winter after a 2012 season that saw the Hamilton defence struggle.

The news that Burke is being retained for next season was greeted enthusiastically in the Bombers locker-room, where he is well liked and highly respected.

"He can be soft-spoken but when he needs to crack down on guys, he can do it and that's where the respect comes from," said safety Ian Logan. "But he doesn't overdo it. There's nothing worse than a coach who's screaming all the time. And so when he does voice his concerns in a vocal way, you know that he means it."

Offensive lineman Glenn January said the Bombers are lucky to have Burke, who was a runner-up last winter for the Hamilton head coaching job that went to George Cortez.

"He's a good head coach," said January.

"And for him to have the 'interim' term lifted from his title, it helps the team understand that this is not... this vague future. This is a building point for the future."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 2, 2012 C2

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