Peter McCall wasn’t ready to step aside as head coach of the Okanagan Sun.
The B.C. Football Conference Club wasn’t prepared to move forward with him at the controls.
The impasse between the two parties came to a head Saturday when the club relieved the 40-year-old McCall of his duties after two years on the job.
In his rookie season as head coach in 2009, the Sun posted a 6-4 record under McCall and finished fourth in the BCFC.
A season later, the club improved to 9-1 to capture its first regular season crown in five years, before eventually losing a heartbreaker to the Vancouver Island Raiders in the conference final.
At the end of 2010, McCall was named the Canadian Junior Football League’s coach of the year.
But according to Sun president Bill Long, it wasn’t McCall’s work in the locker room or on the field that convinced the board of directors’ decision that a change was necessary.
It had more to do with the off-field requirements of the job not being met, including the recruiting of players.
“The reason for the change is that we ask our head coach to make decisions in the best interest of the team, but unfortunately there were a number of instances where decisions were not being made with the team in mind,” said Long. “At least 40 per cent of a head coach’s job comes off the field, ensuring you get the best product on the field. Every coach has to handle those kinds issues and in many cases that wasn’t happening.
“The details of the facts will come out in time,” added Long, “but right now, it’s still too emotional a situation to say much more.”
For McCall, his dismissal comes as a shock and a disappointment, particularly considering he has nearly three decades of history with the Sun organization.
Over the years, McCall has served as a ball boy, a player, an assistant coach and, most recently, as head coach.
“This is a classic case of throwing a guy under the bus and it hurts,” said McCall. “I just want the kids to know I didn’t quit on them. I’ve been with this team for three decades, I’ve been involved in football all my life. That’s why it’s such a tough pill to swallow.
“I don’t want to be bitter and this isn’t the way I want it to end. I just don’t believe this is a good move for the organization.”
That McCall was a popular coach with his players was no secret.
No one knows about McCall’s passion for coaching better than four-year Okanagan veteran Daylon Pommier.
“Peter was a staple of success, what he accomplished in two short years with this team was tremendous,” said Pommier, who played two seasons for McCall at Rutland Secondary and two more with the Sun.
“He was a hard-nosed guy, he demanded respect and hard work, but he gave that respect in return. He was a great guy in the community and I don’t think you could find a better person to coach guys from 17- to 22-years-old.
“It makes everyone step back and wonder where this team is headed,” he added. “I guess we’ll find out.”
Asked about the possibility of any backlash from players through McCall’s departure, Bill Long isn’t concerned about the long-term effects.
“We’ve 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 that.”
After two full seasons at the helm, McCall was proud to say he had put his ‘stamp’ on the Sun and that he could finally call it ‘my team’.
With a 9-1 record and a first-place showing in the BCFC, McCall felt significant progress had been made during his tenure.
Still, even with a new head coach and new identity yet to be developed, Long doesn’t believe any of the advances made on the field over the last two seasons will be undone.
“I don’t think we’re going backwards,” said Long. “A decision was made and if we thought it would jeopardize our ability to move forward we wouldn’t have done it. It was a difficult decision but the board is confident it’s the right one for the team.
“This decision has nothing to do with Pete the person, he’s a good guy,” said Long.
Long said Monday that no fewer than three applications had already been received for the vacant head coaching job and more are expected.
Long admitted that other strong candidates may come from the Sun’s current coaching staff. He said a new head coach will be introduced within the next two to three weeks.