Miller steps down as head coach of Roughriders

The Canadian Press
12/2/2010 6:36:01 PM
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REGINA -- Ken Miller says the decision had been brewing for more than a year.

But that didn't make Thursday's announcement that he was stepping down as head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders any easier.

"This decision is very emotionally charged for me, a difficult decision," the 69-year-old Miller said during a news conference at Mosaic Stadium. "But even though it's emotional and difficult, it was not a decision made emotionally. It was a decision that was made through objective and rational thought."

Miller, who announced the decision just days after the Riders were defeated by the Montreal Alouettes in the Grey Cup, said a lot of his reasons are personal and family-related.

"In addition to that, I think in the test of time it will prove to be in the best interest of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, an organization that I truly, truly love," said Miller. "I've done pretty good work, but I think now we might get a bounce from having a new person come in and takeover what I've done and build on it."

Miller plans to remain on as the club's vice-president of football operations, and will lead the search for a new head coach. Miller admits it will be a big change.

"It will be tremendously different just not to be able to walk in this locker-room in the morning and say 'Good morning Riders.' The relationship that I have with the men who occupy this room, the players, has been the greatest part of my job."

Miller joined the Roughriders as offensive co-ordinator in 2007 and helped lead the club to a Grey Cup victory. He became the Roughriders' 27th head coach on Feb. 6, 2008 and led the team to a 32-21-1 regular-season record during his tenure.

Each of his three seasons have also included a home playoff date.

The Roughriders also made consecutive trips to the Grey Cup, losing both times to Montreal, including 21-18 last Sunday. But Miller said he doesn't want another kick at the can.

"There are some people who suggest that I should just gut it up and go one more," he said. "And really I did that, this past year was the one more."

The affection players had for Miller as a head coach went beyond winning a championship -- the Riders said they simply loved playing for him.

"He treated you like you were family. And that's what made it so special is that he was somebody that always built you up, that always stood behind you and that always encouraged you to do the right thing," said fullback Chris Szarka, who has been with the Riders for 14 seasons. "We'll miss that presence that's for sure."

Veteran offensive lineman Gene Makowsky said it will be tough to see Miller go.

"He's done a lot for this franchise in four years and whoever takes over for him will have a very tough act to follow," said Makowsky. "To me, he'll always be my coach. He's just such a class guy and a guy that players really want to play for, genuinely care about him and that's something special in this business. That's few and far between."

Riders GM Brendan Taman said Miller will be hard to replace.

"He's been pretty successful here and he's a very good person to work with and we have a really good relationship, so I was pretty disappointed but I understood it too. That's just the way it goes sometimes in this business," said Taman.

When asked what qualities he'll look for in the next head coach, Taman said: "Well, if they can be clones of Ken that'd be great.

"But different people bring different things. As long as he has a vision and he knows the market and he can put a good staff together, that's what we'll be looking for."

The Riders hope to find a new head coach by late January. There could be many candidates, including those within the organization who have experience leading CFL teams.

Saskatchewan assistant head coach and offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry spent two seasons as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach. Saskatchewan defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry was head coach and vice-president of football operations for the Toronto Argonauts in 2002 and during that time, he brought Miller into the CFL.

Special teams co-ordinator Jim Daley is on his second stint with the Riders. He was the club's defensive co-ordinator in 1994 and 1995, then spent the next three seasons as the Riders head coach, leading the team to the 1997 Grey Cup.

The Riders could also look at Richie Hall, who was fired last month as the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. Hall was a longtime defensive co-ordinator for the Saskatchewan Roughriders before being lured to Edmonton two years ago.

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