A familiar face is back on the sidelines with the Okanagan Sun.
Former head coach and ex-player Jay Christensen has taken over as the B.C. Football Conference club’s offensive coordinator, replacing Tony Lindsay who was relieved of his duties earlier this week.
Christensen, 47, starred for the Sun as a receiver in the early 1980s. He joined the coaching staff as the offensive coordinator in 1999, before moving into the head coach’s job in 2002.
He spent seven seasons at the helm, before stepping down in 2008.
Christensen admitted to being a little hesitant when he was first contacted about the job, but the more he thought about it, the more attractive the scenario became.
“When it first happened, I didn’t think for a minute I would get the phone call,” said Christensen, who led the Sun to the Canadian junior final in 2004. “I’d stayed away from the game the last few years to look after family needs because those come first.
“But when the calls came, the football juices started to flow again. There are some outstanding athletes on the offensive side of the ball with the Sun, and I’m excited to work with Jason (Casey), the coaching staff and the players.
“I feel for Tony,” he added. “I was in the same boat at one time. Coaching changes are made and that’s the reality of the business.”
Head coach Jason Casey opted to make the change following the club’s 33-20 loss last Saturday to the Vancouver Island Raiders. The Sun offense has sputtered at times this season, generating just a field goal in the second half in Nanaimo, and managing just 15 points in a narrow win over Langley in week 3.
Casey is looking to Christensen’s football acumen and experience to inject new life into the offense.
“Jay has tons of experience in the CFL and in junior, and there’s a certain camaraderie there, we worked quite well together before,” Casey said. “He knows the game inside out, he’s a guy who can step in mid-season, someone who can work with the existing players and system, help us move forward and make this season successful. I’m excited to have Jay on board.”
The decision to release Lindsay was a difficult one for Casey but one he felt needed to be made in order for the Sun to maximize their potential on offense—and eventually get over the hump to a B.C. Football Conference championship.
A more diversified and potent offense is at the top of Casey’s wish-list.
“You have to be able to run the football to be a contender,” he said. “The Raiders ran and passed on us, and we didn’t respond.
“I’m looking for an offense that’s going to use our big O-line, use our running backs and our receivers, all to the best of their abilities. We haven’t seen yet what this offense is capable of.”
Casey regrets having to part ways with Lindsay, but believes he has the team’s best interest at heart.
Lindsay, a former Sun player, spent 12 1/2 seasons on the coaching staff.
“It was gut-wrenching to contemplate a split, I’m friends with Tony,” said Casey. “It’s not going to please everyone, but you do what you think will benefit the football team. I joked that it would have been a lot easier if we didn’t get along, but we do, so it was tough.”
For Christensen, the former head coach said he and Casey haven’t discussed any plans beyond the end of the 2011 season.
Right now Christensen’s focus is becoming a quick study and getting the Sun offense firing as soon as possible.
“I’m going to be a little blind coming in, I only know about four or five or those kids, so there is going to be a bit of a learning curve there,” he said. “But having said that I have a history with the staff here, I’m going to get help from them, and I’ve been around football for a long time, so hopefully I can step right in.
“The excitement is back,” he added, “and this time I don’t have to worry about all the decisions a head coach has to make.”
Christensen will take over the offense early next week at practise. The Sun returns to action Saturday, Sept. 11 at home to the Chilliwack Huskers.