Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Argonauts boss runneth over with cups

Milanovich named coach of the year

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IT took Scott Milanovich 10 years to become a head football coach, but not all the tears shed the day he joined the Toronto Argonauts were of happiness.

Milanovich said his daughters Macall, 11, and Maggie, nine, initially cried then he told them he was assuming the head job in Toronto. It wasn't so much having to move to a new city after five years in Montreal, but rather the idea of sitting in the stands and having to listen to Argos fans criticize the head coach during the roller-coaster ride that usually is the 18-game CFL regular season.

But the 40-year-old native of Butler, Pa., often pressed the right buttons as a rookie head coach, leading Toronto to its first Grey Cup title since 2004. On Thursday, that earned Milanovich the CFL's coach of the year award.

However, Milanovich's highlight this season was celebrating Toronto's 35-22 win over the Calgary Stampeders in the 100th Grey Cup on the Rogers Centre field afterwards with his family.

"The moment after the Grey Cup was one of the best of my life, spending it with my wife, my daughters and my family," Milanovich said. "But the thing people don't see is after the losses, the concern on their faces.

"They're hurting because you're hurting and that's as much of a motivator for me as anything. What the typical outside world doesn't realize is coaches are paid to do that but the families live and die with every win and loss so for them to be able to share that moment with me on the field and be in the parade and celebrate in our city, those are the reasons you do it, for those moments."

Milanovich claimed the Annis Stukus trophy at a luncheon in Regina after receiving 34 of 45 first-place ballots in voting by the Football Reporters of Canada. Calgary head coach/GM John Hufnagel and Mike Benevides of the B.C. Lions were the other finalists.

Milanovich became the sixth Argos coach to capture the award and second in three years as GM Jim Barker won it in 2010.

Barker stepped down as Argos coach in December 2011 and hired Milanovich, who had been an assistant in Montreal for five seasons. Barker then made headlines when he landed veteran pivot Ricky Ray in a blockbuster trade with the Edmonton Eskimos.

But Ray and the Argos started slowly. In August, Toronto released running back Cory Boyd even though he led the CFL in rushing and the team was just 4-4 heading into its annual Labour Day showdown with Hamilton.

After consecutive wins over Hamilton, Toronto then lost five of its next six games, including two-of-three when Ray went down with a knee injury, to stand at 7-9. However, Ray and the Argos caught fire, winning their final five games and capping their late-season run with a Grey Cup victory before a rabid Rogers Centre gathering of 53,208.

"It was a great year but sometimes it's even sweeter when you have to overcome some obstacles," Milanovich said.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2013 C8

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