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February 2, 2000

New Argonaut skipper vows to run tight ship

Tough words from Huard raise eyebrows, hackles

By Mark Harding

Toronto Star Sports Reporter

Hired for his ``superior intelligence, superior toughness and superior knowledge'' and described as a ``coach for the 21st century,'' John Huard was introduced yesterday as the 37th head coach in Argonauts' history.

He may go down as the first to incite a full-scale mutiny among his players. Either that, or they'll jump rope their way to Calgary en route to a Grey Cup victory.

An avowed disciplinarian and fitness guru - he wants his squad to jump rope for at least 30 minutes after each game - the 55-year-old former head coach of the CFL's defunct Shreveport Pirates, two-time national champion and coach of the year with the CIAU's Acadia Axemen and head coach at the Maine Military Academy will run a vastly different Argo ship than either his immediate predecessor, Jim Barker, or Don Matthews.

``He brings superior intelligence, superior toughness, superior knowledge. He's my kind of guy,'' declared managing director J.I. Albrecht.

Wearing a red tie with blue and yellow X's and O's, Huard expressed gratitude to owner Sherwood Schwarz and Albrecht for allowing him to return to coaching, but certainly didn't endear himself to members of the team's defence.

With several Argos in attendance, Huard gave a thumbs-down to an Argo defence that ranked first in 12 of 25 categories in 1999.

``Nine and 10 (team's record) to me is a losing season,'' said Huard, who said he learned his people skills while working as a probation parole officer in the late '60s. ``People will say, `That's not true, they had the best defence in the CFL.' You didn't have the best defence in the CFL, I can tell you that now. Statistically, it might look that way on paper, but it's bogus figures. When you have a plus-minus ratio (giveaways and takeaways) of minus-6, you don't have the best defence in the CFL. When you have a plus-18, now you're talking.''

``Well, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. I don't think he worded it quite the way he meant to,'' said cornerback Adrion Smith. ``I think it would be best if I didn't comment,'' added defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry, who will be offered a spot on Huard's staff.

Rush end Glen Young also was reluctant to comment, but admitted that it ``does kind of get your dander up.''

A linebacker at the University of Maine, Huard was taken in the fifth round of the 1967 draft by the Denver Broncos. His career was cut short by injuries but he played 10 games with Montreal in the early '70s when Albrecht was GM.

It was on Albrecht's recommendation that he was hired at Acadia, winning national titles in 1979 and 1981 and winning CIAU coach of the year. He later served as assistant coach under Marv Levy in the USFL and was hired by Albrecht as Shreveport's head coach in '94. He was fired during training camp over ``philosophical differences'' with Lonie Glieberman, son of owner Bernie Glieberman. Those differences concerned a boot-camp approach to training camp.

Former Pirate and current B.C. defensive end Johnny Scott remembers ``that was the hardest camp I'd ever been through.''