The Blue Bombers anointed Mike O’Shea as their new head coach today, making the Canadian coach the last of the three big shake-up hires as the football club looks to reverse its slumping fortunes.
In an unusual move, the Bombers unveiled O’Shea at an open press conference in a Fairmont Hotel ballroom downtown, inviting fans to come watch. Around 100 turned out, and gave a lengthy ovation when Bombers GM Kyle Walters formally announced O’Shea as the new sideline boss.
"This is something I didn’t expect," O’Shea said after the applause finally faded down. "You expect members of the media to sit in front of you… It helps solidify why you make a decision like this."
This is the first head coaching job for O’Shea, a 43-year-old from North Bay, Ont. who played 16 years in the CFL and won four Grey Cup rings in that time. After retiring from the CFL in 2009, he joined the Toronto Argonauts as special teams coach, where he remained until the Bombers came knocking.
With the hire, he becomes a rare Canadian head coach in the country’s own pro football league.
As for the rest of the coaching staff, O’Shea declined to give specifics, but said there were "a number of people" he was looking at to bring in to round out his assistants, suggesting it’s unlikely to see former members of the coaching staff return. "I do want to get it done as quickly as possible," he said, stressing he was looking for coaches who are "the best teachers out there."
O’Shea also kept a close lid on his thoughts on personnel matters, though he said he did watch a lot of tape. The Bombers do have players with a ton of talent, he said, though he noted you can’t see character on tape – or measure the effect of lack of confidence.
"They need to refocus," O’Shea said, noting he was planning on returning to the stadium after the presser to continue working with Walters and scouts. "They need to believe in the process of starting to win again."
In a lighthearted moment at the afternoon presser, Walters said he remembers his first contact with Mike O’Shea: it was early days of training camp at the University of Guelph almost 25 years ago, when he was stymied by a fearsome linebacker. O’Shea has, ahem, fewer recollections of that first encounter. "No, I don’t remember him at all," O’Shea said, for a few laughs.