Korey Banks has played for a lot of coaches over a long career in pro football, including 11 years in the CFL with three-going-on-four organizations.
Ditto Glenn January and Ejiro Kuale, both of whom have been around long enough to have experienced the joy and pain the game offers.
And that experienced trio will tell you this: whether a coach realizes it or not, his first address to the team is absolutely, positively monumental. It's a tone-setter. And it can also give a glimpse at the boss' expectations and at his personality.
"That first speech, it really breaks the ice," said Banks Sunday after his first practice as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber and first under new head coach Mike O'Shea. "It's big because you can lose a locker-room with something you say right away. You say the wrong thing and the guys are looking at you funny and then you get a separation in the locker-room... and that ain't good.
"And then there are some coaches who get up there for their first speech and, just because they've had some success, they get on a pedestal and talk to the players like they're lesser men. Everybody's a man here. You've got to keep that in perspective."
Now maybe it says something about O'Shea that he didn't spend a lot of time thinking about what would make up the meat of the introductory speech Saturday night to the team. Asked what the theme was, O'Shea said it was mostly administrative and was simply part of a series of introductions that included everyone from president Wade Miller to media relations director Darren Cameron.
"Speeches can be pretty contrived," said O'Shea. "When something happens and I recognize it, I'm going to say it right then and there. To just set aside a block of time to stand at the pulpit and preach to the guys who know what they want to do anyway...
"We all want to win so I don't know that we have to talk about it a lot."
Still, even if his address was off the cuff, it did make an impact on Banks, Kuale and January. Yes, sometimes simple can be effective, too.
"It was a real short speech, straight to the point," said Kuale. "He just said this is a big year for everybody to turn around this organization. He wants effort and a winning mentality. It was all about winning.
"He's a man of very few words. And so when he does speak, everybody listens because it's usually very important."
O'Shea's first official practice of main training camp didn't look dramatically different than others by Bomber coaches over the years. There were a few new wrinkles in terms of drills and it was fast-paced and intense. Banks said he had never had back-to-back camp practices in his career before -- the Bombers started at 8:30 a.m. and finished around 1 p.m. -- while Kuale was lamenting his decision to try to break in a new set of cleats on Day 1.
"Big mistake," he said with a grin. "My feet are sore."
But while the new boss let his assistants do the yelling and coaching, there was also very little doubt about who was in charge. O'Shea bopped around from group to group to study their work and when he addressed the team afterwards, there wasn't one set of wandering eyes.
"What I remember playing with him was, he was a coach on the field," said January. "It was a amazing the way he commanded the field, commanded the locker-room. He had the respect of everybody and, to be honest, sometimes he was kind of a jerk. That says a lot because he was a guy that wasn't afraid to tell you what was on his mind and he had the ability to tell a guy who was screwing up to get in line and shape up."
Now, all of this is well and good on June 1, when every CFL team talks boldly of the playoffs and a deep November run. Ultimately, O'Shea -- just like Tim Burke, Paul LaPolice, Mike Kelly and Doug Berry before him -- will be judged by wins and losses.
But good first impressions can be lasting, too.
"A coach has to put his DNA on the organization," said Banks. "If he doesn't, if he leaves that up to somebody else, well, you know what happens then. It's gotta be like Frank Sinatra; 'Do it My Way.' A coach can't have any regrets.
"His speech, it was honest. Look, everybody wants to win here. The job is already hard enough and nobody wants to come here and win just three games. Nobody wants to underachieve like that. It's going to be a work in progress, a day-to-day grind. And Day 1 was good."
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