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Pat Tracey leaves Queen's for CFL coaching gig in Winnipeg
Posted: January 7th, 2014 @ 4:18pm
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Whenever Mike O'Shea has needed something at an important point in his football career, it seems Pat Tracey has been there.
When it came time for the new coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to go looking for someone to co-ordinate his team's specialty units, it was perhaps only logical that he give the Queen's Golden Gaels' defensive co-ordinator a call.
On the phone Tuesday O'Shea "remembered exactly" the moment he met Tracey, when he was a freshman at the University of Guelph and Tracey was the defensive co-ordinator there.
"It was one of relief," O'Shea said, chuckling, "because, as silly as this sounds, I was having trouble finding my locker. He sort of came around the corner and recognized that I might have had a little bit of stress going on in my life at that time.
"He straightened me out."
Not long ago, when O'Shea retired from his CFL playing career and was named special teams co-ordinator with the Toronto Argonauts, there was Tracey again.
"He showed up on the first day and said, 'All right, what do you need me to do?'" O'Shea recalled. "He helped set me straight on the direction I was going."
Now Tracey will be in charge of the punting, kicking and return teams of the Blue Bombers in O'Shea's first foray into the realm of being head coach. Although Tracey's knowledge of both the game and Canadian personnel made him a prime candidate for the job, in an interview O'Shea kept going back to Tracey's ability to teach his most important characteristic.
"When he was the defensive co-ordinator at Guelph, he demanded a certain preparedness," O'Shea said. "It wasn't good enough to know your own assignment, you had to know what everybody else was doing. The expectation was that you could get up on the board and draw it. That was a very good start for me.
"At the level we're coaching you need to set the bar high. You can't lower it to meet the needs of some players. You have to keep it high and be able to coach and teach the players to have them achieve that level. To pull a line from (Hall of Fame coach) Don Matthews, the bottom line is the players want to do the right thing. Pat's always believed in players and found a way to get through to them and coach them well enough to get them into the right positions.
"Players want to be in the right spot to have success. That's something that Pat believes in."
The appointment of Tracey, whose teams had a .658 winning percentage in the 13 years he was defensive co-ordinator at Queen's, was confirmed Tuesday after weeks of speculation. Though Tracey has spent most of his university football career in the defensive huddle, he was special teams co-ordinator for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1998 - when they went to the Grey Cup - and he co-ordinated special teams for the champion Canadian team at the world youth tournament in 2007.
"I think it's a great fit. I think he'll do very well (in the CFL)," Ryan Bechmanis said.
A defensive back as a player at Queen's, Bechmanis played for Tracey, began his coaching career at Queen's under Tracey's tutelage and is now the defensive co-ordinator at Carleton.
"I've learned so much from Coach Tracey," Bechmanis said. "He's a very knowledgeable man; he's intense and he demands excellence from the players. Talk to any of the guys who played for him and they would run through a brick wall for the guy because he pushes you that hard. He is a great coach and players loved to play for him."
Not always does an "intense" approach engender loyalty from players but Bechmanis said Tracey's passion could never be misinterpreted.
"All the guys could see that he was coaching to make us become better football players," Bechmanis said. "All the guys understood that because he taught you something while pushing. You always knew why he wanted you to do something, you always knew what you were trying to accomplish.
"He took the time to explain everything and then he demanded excellence from you. As a player, that's what you want."
Players don't resent the demands being made of them, Bechmanis said, because they very quickly recognize that Tracey pursues his own craft with the same zeal he expects them to display.
"He's a tireless worker," Bechmanis said. "If he needed to be at that stadium all hours of the night, he would be there. Coming back from some of those long road trips, he would just go right into the office. We'd come back from Western and he'd go right to the office and get to work right away.
"You could go to the stadium in the morning and stop by at 9 a.m. and he'd already have something ready for you to watch."
Whether the Gaels were preparing to face an 0-7 team or a team that was 7-0, Bechmanis said Tracey prepared brilliantly. "Without a doubt, you believed in what he gave you."
"Some of those game plans, he'd come to a locker room before a meeting on Wednesday night and he'd say, 'OK, guys, we got 'em,' and we believed it. When he said that, it gave us so much confidence and we knew we had 'em."
Bechmanis said he regards both Tracey and Gaels coach Pat Sheahan as mentors. "I've kept in touch with Coach Tracey. If I have questions, I know I can go to him. He's one of the guys I really trust in this profession."
Bechmanis has no doubt Tracey will be successful coaching in the CFL.
"He's definitely got the knowledge and the work ethic," he said. "When the guys see that he's organized and prepared and is trying to put them in the best position to win, they'll love playing for him."
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