Peter McCall’s ability to coach football and relate to his players was never questioned by the Okanagan Sun’s board of directors, team president Bill Long told a news conference Wednesday in Kelowna.
Long said the club’s decision to relieve McCall of his head coaching duties this week had more to do with his shortcomings off the field and in the off-season, predominantly in the area of recruiting.
“Our head coach did not give recruiting the level of importance that we knew was necessary to maintain elite status and regain championship form,” Long said on behalf of the board in a prepared statement.
“We do not consider Pete McCall a bad coach, in fact a number of the board of directors have expressed that if they had a son in high school, they would want Pete to be his coach.”
The club dismissed the 40-year-old McCall of his head coaching duties Saturday after two seasons on the job.
Under McCall the club went 16-7, regular season and playoffs combined, reaching the BCFC final in 2010 before losing to Vancouver Island. He was named the Canadian Junior Football League’s coach of the year in November.
Still, statistics and awards aside, Long said there is significant difference between the responsibilities of being a coach and a head coach at the junior level, and the board felt McCall had fallen short of those expectations.
“All the great coaches this team has ever had, had one common denominator: They were voracious recruiters,” said Long. “They were prepared to put in the commitment required in the off-season to get the best players possible and put the team forward.
“The best attributes of Pete McCall are his ability to motivate players, on the field and in the off-season.”
For McCall’s part, a few days to ponder the latest developments hasn’t softened the blow of his dismissal.
While he admitted to having some shortcomings where recruiting is concerned, he still doesn’t believe he was given a fair shake by the football club.
“It’s been very disheartening for me,” said McCall. “There was a communication breakdown between (new GM) Howie Zaron, myself and the board of directors when it came to recruiting. I know it isn’t my strength, there were a couple of missed opportunities, but I was hoping they could help me with that side of it. The next thing I know I’m fired.
“I know I did a good job, I’m a good coach,” McCall continued, “and I know I helped build up the image and morale of the club. It’s so much better than when I came in…to have it taken away is frustrating.”
That McCall’s dismissal has caused a considerable stir in the football community and upset some of his former players comes as no surprise to Long.
After all, McCall has nearly three decades of history with the Sun and was the head coach at Rutland Secondary for eight years.
Still, Long doesn’t expect any long-term backlash from the decision, particularly with Sun players.
“We discussed it with the players and we told them it’s fine to be upset and emotional and angry,” said Long. “We’d be upset if they weren’t emotionally tied to their coach. But I’ve been a player where coaches have been fired, and I’ve been fired, too.
“It’s something we feel they’ll deal with in time,” he added. “We may have a player or two who may choose to play somewhere else but for the most part we think the guys are here to play football and they’ll get back to that.”
As of Wednesday, Long said the Sun had received five applications for the vacant head coaching job, including two from local coaches. He said the other applicants are from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
Long said new Sun GM Howie Zaron is not on the list of possible candidates.
No specific time line has been set for naming McCall’s replacement, but Long expects an announcement to be made in the next several weeks.