Sun stopped ‘responding’ to head coach

Club dismisses Gavin Lake; president Paul Carson will serve as interim coach for Sun's BCFC playoff game Saturday in Nanaimo

Gavin Lake was removed this week from his head coaching duties with the Okanagan Sun.

One of the last places Paul Carson expected to be during the 2012 B.C. Football Conference season was back on the sidelines.

As it is, the Okanagan Sun’s current team president and former assistant will serve as the club’s interim head coach for this Saturday’s semifinal playoff game in Nanaimo against the Vancouver Island Raiders.

Carson will be filling in for Gavin Lake who was dismissed Monday from his head coaching duties with the Sun.

Lake, who was hired this spring, guided a young Sun squad to a disappointing 3-7 record this season, including a dismal 1-4 showing at the Apple Bowl.

The club’s lethargic and uninspired 48-6 drubbing at the hands of the visiting Langley Rams on Saturday afternoon was the final chapter for Lake.

“I think there had been some concern for a few weeks about the team, and the big thing that brought it to a head on the weekend was how the team was reacting and responding to the coach,” said Carson, in his first season as Sun president. “I think Gavin did everything he could to try to motivate the guys and make the team successful but really, on the weekend, it seemed like he just wasn’t being heard any more.

“(GM) Jay (Christensen) and I were around the team enough to know Gavin was doing everything he could. It just wasn’t working.”

Carson said the Sun’s board of directors wrestled over the timing of the dismissal, but ultimately decided the sooner the club started planning for the future, the better.

In fairness to both Lake and the team, Carson conceded the 2012 edition of the club probably “wasn’t where it needed to be talent-wise”—particularly with the late departures of all-stars like Matt Walker, Brennan Van Nistelrooy and Dan Turek.

Still, in an organization where winning has been an ingrained tradition for more than 30 years, a meagre three victories fell well short of expectations.

“Nobody expected or wanted to be where we are right now,” Carson said.

Adding to the challenge was the unexpected move of Jason Casey to the CIS this spring, leaving the Sun with a tight timeline when it came to both the hiring of a head coach and getting him familiarized with his new team.

From Lake’s perspective, the 40-year-old Richmond Hill, Ont., native felt like he was playing a game of catch-up from the earliest stages of the season.

“I came late to the dance,  I didn’t start until May 1 and I wasn’t in on a lot of the recruiting, so I was really starting from square one with all new faces and a new team,” Lake said. “I always seemed to be behind the 8-ball, I never seemed to catch up and just couldn’t right the ship in time. I didn’t get the most out of what I needed to and I feel bad, I feel bad for the Sun. I thank them for the opportunity and wish the team the best.”

Lake, who also has CFL, CIS and European coaching experience was hired in April to replace  Casey who left for a coaching job at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

Lake was the club’s third head coach in as many seasons and fourth in five years. Peter McCall took over from Jay Christensen in 2009, then was dismissed prior to the 2011 campaign.

While Carson will assume the role for at least one game, he assures he won’t be filling the post next season. He says the club will initiate its search for a new head coach immediately following the 2012 season.

As for this weekend’s playoff matchup with the rival Vancouver Island Raiders, Carson said the underdog Sun have an opportunity to salvage the year with one solid effort.

“My hope is that some of these kids get a charge out of this change and take it out on to the field with them,” Carson said. “Some of the kids will be somewhat disappointed but it shouldn’t change their performance.

“The bottom line is it’s a great opportunity. The (Raiders) are a great team and they’re going to be prepared. Our guys have shown they can play there. Hopefully this turns out to be a big win for us.”

The Sun and Raiders kick off the BCFC semifinal Saturday at 1 p.m. at Caledonia Park.