REGINA - The 48th head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders is Corey Mace and from all accounts the club is getting someone who very much wanted the job.
The Roughriders officially announced Mace as the new head coach in a news release on Thursday, and on Friday he was officially introduced at a news conference at Mosaic Stadium in Regina alongside General Manager Jeremy O’Day.
“I’ve seen the retweets and stuff about I wanted this job, and I do, it’s true,” said Mace. “And it aligns to my football career to this point.”
The native of Port Moody, BC pointed to the similar passionate environments he experienced in college with the Wyoming Cowboys, and then in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills — teams that matched their communities they played in.
“And that’s my vision…I believe this is the one organization in the CFL that marries that concept,” said Mace.
“You understand it certainly being here, you understand it as a visitor coming here, and you understand it when you get to know people from the province of Saskatchewan with this logo, and what this team means to this community. I take pride in that, as much as I know the community takes pride in this team. I will never lose sight of that, I promise you, and I will do everything I can to really provide that sentiment to the gentlemen who are going to don the jerseys on behalf of your team. While JO is the GM, and Craig (Reynolds is) the President, and I’m the Head Coach, this is Saskatchewan’s team… I will never lose sight of that, the players will not lose sight of that either.”
“Right from the beginning Corey stood out,” said O’Day. “He made it be known right at the start and right at the end that he wanted to be the head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and you could see he put himself in the seat when he communicated. Again, there’s a difference between wanting something and going through that proper thought process, preparation, all the details of being a head coach.”
Mace was chosen following an extensive interview process in which other names such as Winnipeg’s Buck Pierce and Hamilton’s Scott Milanovich were mentioned prominently.
The interview process began a couple of weeks ago, and O’Day said they conducted about a dozen interviews with candidates, some in person and others over video or Zoom.
Characteristics he said they were looking for was someone who was a leader, someone honest, possesses a great work ethic, a great communicator, someone with a vision of what they wanted the team to look like, someone who would bring a great staff, a proven winner, someone who wants to establish a winning culture and one who is willing to get involved in the community.
O’Day said he interviewed Mace twice, the first interview lasting about five or six hours — though at the end of it O’Day said it felt it was an hour long because it moved so fast. After that, O’Day said he felt Mace —who had been defensive coordinator with Toronto and also a defensive line coach in Calgary where he had also been a player — was ready to be a head coach, though there was still the second interview where Mace met the Riders in person.
“With Corey it was just different. You know, someone on my staff said ‘you know, is it a feel thing?’ Well, there’s a little bit more to it than just feel, but that certainly was a big part of it… Once you have him in person he’s contagious, he’s genuine, he’s honest. Part of my job is to, as he just said, put myself in the shoes of the players. And it’s a very complex thing, it’s not just one thing or the other, but being a former player, just talking to an individual and saying 'is this the guy who you’d follow and run through a wall for,' and it became clear that I would, for sure. But then there’s so much more to it and I don’t want to use the term, it’s cliché, but ‘checking all the boxes’... it just became clear.”
As for assistant coaches, Mace said he has a “certain idea” about what he wanted for a staff, but also noted there is a process to go through for that hiring. Mace also said he had a “great talk” with quarterback Trevor Harris, and said having him and his experience will “certainly galvanize the guys” and “he’s going to be an extension of my voice on the field.”
As for the oft-cited quote from Mace circulating on social media that he told O’Day at the end of the process that he “really ******* wanted this job” — Mace said “it’s never meant in aggressive way. it’s kind of how I talk sometimes but yeah, there was probably some more in there, to be quite frank. But I wanted it to be known that this is definitely something that I wanted, absolutely.”
On the expectations:
“I’m very black-and-white… Each year there’s only one good team, that’s how I look at it. You either win the last game or you don’t. Whether you were in it and you lost or whether you didn’t get to the playoffs it’s the same you didn’t win. So I understand the expectation and it should be that.”
“Accountability is, I think, is one in every organization and it’s a matter of being firm on that. And honestly, sometimes it’s the ones, the biggest stars on the team that take it sometimes — it sets the tone, truthfully. Hopefully you don’t have to hold anybody accountable for doing anything they shouldn’t be doing. You know, football is a fast moving sport and guys sometimes find themselves in slumps and you handle it a little certain way. But when the guys start holding themselves accountable, you know you’ve got something so that’s going to be the end game.”
On being active in the community:
“Who are we — when I say we, my family and I — not to give back. And even if we can do six or seven initiatives, it ain’t going to measure up to what the fanbase brings to us, so it’s important the way I was raised, it’s important to how we want to raise our children, and I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
On how soon the Riders can turn it around and win a Grey Cup:
"Well, today is day one. But what I'll say, I can't put a timeline on it... For example, my time in Calgary, shoot we went to three straight and it took the third one to get one. You saw Montreal won this year. So all that I've seen, yeah, it's possible to turn something around quick, but sometimes it can take a process. So I don't want to give you a timeline without actually meeting the team yet... If it happens early, it happens early. If happens late, it happens late, but know that's the only thing we're going to be pushing for."
As for bringing a winning culture to Saskatchewan:
"I think I have an idea of kind of the ingredients to what the recipe of winning looks like, just being a part of it for the last few years. But you know if you look, you've got to have really good players, and I think the foundation, obviously, of what I had spoke to... the foundation of that is excellent. And I'm telling you, talking with other coaches around the league, other players, they understand that. I know maybe you guys think something different sometimes, but trust me when I tell you, the foundation is solid here.
"So yeah, I think it's a marriage of kind of what the locker room is, what the organization is, the brotherhood that these guys will share, we'll all share as an organization, but also you've got to have talented players. And these guys already do a talented job of already doing that and I can't wait to work with them moving forward."