If you live in Saskatchewan as a sports fan you live and die with the Roughriders.
There was a shudder of apprehension that flowed through Riderville when Chris Jones opted to head south for a position with the perennially awful Cleveland Browns.
As stated previously in this space Jones was one of those ‘glass half full’ sort of coaches, he won more than he lost, he just wasn’t particularly likeable in doing it.
But his departure left a void that needed to be filled.
The ’Rider brass chose to spilt the general manager and head coach duties this time.
To no one’s surprise Jeremy O’Day was installed as GM. He’s been involved with the team for some time, and the transition should be a smooth one.
On the coaching side the Roughriders looked internally as well, as Craig Dickenson was named the Riders’ head coach becoming the 47th head coach in club history.
Dickenson is in the fourth season of his second go-round with the Roughriders, spending the last three seasons as the special-teams coordinator. He also previously worked with the Riders special teams during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Now some might argue special teams is a strange place to draw a head coach from, but this hire is far more about trusting Dickenson’s extended experience, and providing continuity for the team.
The Roughriders had a solid 10-8 record in 2018, a record a franchise would want to build on. Hiring internally should keep the team on the same general course, hopefully Dickenson will be a touch more public friendly than his predecessor.
Of course the key to the upcoming season percolates down to one thing, can the tandem of O’Day and Dickenson find a quarterback?
There is little to suggest any of those under contract at the end of last season are short, or long term, solutions to the problems at pivot, and you can’t win in the Canadian Football League without a star quarterback – the last three Grey Cups having been won by future hall of famers, Henry Burris, Ricky Ray and Bo Levi Mitchell. The success of the ‘Riders rests on how the QB spot is addressed.
The Roughriders are not the only Saskatchewan sports team to announce a coach in recent weeks.
The Saskatchewan Rattlers of the new Canadian Elite Basketball League have signed Greg Jockims as the team’s first head coach and general manager.
A release from the club noted, “Jockims joins the Rattlers after coaching the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s basketball team for 13 years. From 1998 to 2011 Jockims helped rebuild the Huskies and coached them to seven straight playoff appearances which included Central Division Regular Season Titles in 2005 and 2006 as well as a Central Division Championship in 2006 and a Canada West Championship in 2010. That same year, Jockims lead an underdog Huskie team to the pinnacle of men’s university basketball in Canada by becoming the first men’s program in Saskatchewan to win the CIS National Championship. Amassing a total of 198 victories during his time as the Huskies head coach, Jockims will bring a high-intensity and fast-paced game to the Rattlers hardwood. Jockims’ first task as the Rattlers head coach and general manager is to begin the recruitment and assembly of the Rattlers roster.”
It will be interesting to see how things go for Jockims, the Rattlers and the league as they embark on a slightly different path in terms of basketball.
The league will play over the summer, so won’t be in competition for b’ball attention with the National Basketball Association, but will have to compete with sunny evenings that could be spent on the disc golf course or the fishing hole.
The league will play by international FIBA rules, slightly different from the NBA which is familiar to most fans. Different is usually a good thing, so mark that as a plus for me, but whether others will agree is a question.
The league also promises Canadian player content, think the basketball equivalent of the CFL, with 70 per cent of rosters being domestic. I like the idea of providing a place for Canadian players to continue development, especially as it should help our national team program when NBA players aren’t available. Some will think the talent is not there, but watch some Canadian college ball and you will find some very skilled players the CEBL will be ultimately drawing from.
The CEBL will be comprised of six teams; Hamilton, Edmonton, Guelph, St. Catharines, Abbotsford, and Saskatoon, each team plays 10 home and 10 road games.
Playing out of the SaskTel Centre, the Rattlers season opener will be May 9, against the Niagara River Lions.