It might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but as he entertains the applicants for the B.C. Lions head coaching job in his off-site lair, Ed Hervey is clearly engaged in the process.
“I’m fired up,” he says in the lobby of the new Civic Hotel in Surrey. “The candidates have all been fantastic. This has been exciting.”
Exciting he says. Maybe the man needs to get out more. Since the Lions were eliminated a month ago on a cold, unforgiving day in Hamilton, Hervey has been consumed with the search for the next man. He’s conducted more interviews than Barbara Walters. He’s run background checks on each candidate with coaches and former players, some who had been cut by the candidate in question.
“You learn more from those guys,” said the Lions’ GM.
This week, he’s also been holed up in a suite at the Civic where the final interviews have been held. Unless something goes off the rails, the announcement will be made next week and the job will go to DeVone Claybrooks, the Calgary Stampeders’ defensive coordinator the last three years.
But, while that news registers as a formality, Hervey will tell you the entire exercise has been invaluable to him and the organization. As for the fun part, well, as in all things, that’s a matter of perspective.
“I don’t think there’s a poor choice,” he says. “This is more about fit and sharing the same philosophy.
“That’s what excites me about this process and this hire. Regardless of who we choose, I feel very confident we’re going to get a very good head coach and the future of the team is in good hands. There are guys we’ve talked to who are going to be good head coaches in the future.”
But, for the Lions, the future is now.
During the course of a long, wide-ranging interview, Hervey would neither confirm nor deny that Claybrooks was his man, but the former NFLer who’s been on the Stamps’ staff since 2012 is the clear front-runner.
After the Lions’ loss in Hamilton, Hervey flew to Calgary for the Western final and he didn’t make the trip for the points. He’s interviewed Claybrooks, along with Ottawa offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo, Ottawa defensive coordinator and longtime CFL assistant Noah Thorpe and Lions defensive coordinator Mark Washington.
The announcement, he said, will likely come within six to 10 days. Hervey added he’ll be hiring a first-time head coach.
“DeVone is a definite candidate,” Hervey said. “Any team that gets him is going to get a good head coach. He’s probably the front-runner on a lot of team’s list. I can’t speak for Toronto but I imagine that’s the way they see him.
“Whoever we chose is going to be the best fit for the organization.”
Hervey added the new man will pick his own staff. Lions offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson is under contract for another year and with the new cap for football operations in place, he’ll likely be retained. The same can’t be said for the Lions other position coaches.
“I will have a say,” Hervey of the new coaching staff. “The new coaches will have to be explained if I don’t know them, but there haven’t been too many names I don’t know.
“The coaching staff will impact the decision on who we choose.”
While he wasn’t long on details, Hervey was only too happy to discuss what this hire means to his vision for the Lions. He wants a leader who can communicate with the players, “whether they’re from South Florida or northern Saskatchewan.”
Again, that sounds like Claybrooks who built a reputation as a players’ coach in Calgary.
But Hervey also talked about the alignment which has to take place between his philosophy and the philosophy of the new coach. The former receiver has ambitious designs for the Lions and wants to build them into the CFL’s destination franchise. He also talked about the need to get bigger, faster and more athletic, both next year and into the future.
“When we talk about winning games and winning championships, we envision building a dynasty,” he said. “It’s not about hoping we’re going to get it done. I don’t like to live in hope. I like to live in getting it done.
Well, no one can accuse him of thinking small. The Lions are coming off a 9-9 season and it’s still unclear who they’ll have at quarterback next season but when you’re thinking along dynastic lines, Hervey knows it starts with the new head coach.
He also knows if he doesn’t get this one right, it doesn’t matter what he does elsewhere with the team.
“Once I’m done (interviewing) I’m going to take a couple of days and just absorb everything,” he said. “I have to hire someone I can work with who gives us the best chance of building a winning organization. It’s a very intense process.
“But It all starts with the relationship between the head coach and general manager. That impacts the whole organization. If those people are on the same page, it’s reflected on the field.”
And that’s when the rest of us can get excited.
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