Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

LaPolice will make Austin's short list

Could be called upon to direct Ticats offence

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Paul LaPolice might not get too comfortable wearing makeup and expensive suits.

The former Blue Bombers head coach, who has been keeping busy working as an analyst with TSN, might be back in a headset and sweats next season.

With the news that Kent Austin has been hired as head coach and GM of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the obvious connection to LaPolice has to be made.

Austin will likely have a number of choices for his offensive co-ordinator but LaPolice will be on the short list.

"Paul would certainly be on my list of guys to talk to. We have an excellent relationship and we worked together in both Toronto and Saskatchewan on the Grey Cup team," said Austin late Monday afternoon following the announcement of his appointment in Hamilton. "Paul's a great person and great coach as well."

The two are friends and won the 2007 Grey Cup together in Saskatchewan when Austin coached the Roughriders and LaPolice was receivers coach. Austin was the offensive co-ordinator in Toronto when LaPolice coached the Argos receivers.

LaPolice, who was fired by the Blue Bombers this season after opening the campaign with a 2-6 mark, was reached by phone on Monday and while he wouldn't indicate he had interest in a position with Hamilton he also would not rule it out.

Austin is leaving the head coaching position at Cornell University to take the Hamilton post and could simply bring along his assistant head coach and receivers coach Tommy Condell to fill the offensive co-ordinator post.

Condell got his start in the CFL, working one year in Winnipeg as special teams co-ordinator, two seasons in Ottawa as the passing game co-ordinator and the 2006 season in Saskatchewan as offensive co-ordinator.

For LaPolice, it could be the perfect landing spot. It would get him back in the game working with top-level offensive people such as Austin and quarterback Henry Burris.

Octane

The Tiger-Cats offence was high octane last season and there's lots of talent in place. Burris, Andy Fantuz, Chevon Walker and Chris Williams are a nice start.

LaPolice, who has some image rebuilding to do, could find himself in a comfortable chair and able to pad his resumé in a hurry.

Some CFL observers believe LaPolice is cut out to be an offensive co-ordinator and not a head coach. Whether that assertion has merit remains to be seen but LaPolice will likely have to take a step back and work as a co-ordinator before getting another crack at a head coaching job.

Jumping in with a Hamilton team that will likely challenge for a playoff spot in the East this season will get LaPolice back in the spotlight. If the Tabbies can go on a run, and that should surprise no one given the constant state of flux in the CFL, LaPolice could build some positive buzz.

Austin has a keen offensive mind but he'll be busy running the entire football operation and coaching the team. He'll want a co-ordinator he can trust and rely on. LaPolice would fit both those requirements.

The Bombers owe LaPolice another $250,000 for next season and could get a break on that if he were to take another job. The two sides would need to come to a settlement but any reduction on the cash owed LaPolice should be welcomed by the Blue Bombers.

LaPolice could remain with TSN and collect his full Bombers salary and would certainly want a buyout from his Winnipeg contract before accepting one with another club.

The other factor to consider is both Austin and LaPolice are represented by agent Gil Scott, a quiet but most powerful force in the CFL.

Austin also said on Monday there would be other candidates to consider but he'll want to move quickly on his coaching staff and LaPolice would appear to be a ready-made answer.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 18, 2012 C2

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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