Jim Barker may have been the man holding the Annis Stukus Trophy as the CFL's 2010 Coach of the Year at a Vancouver banquet Friday afternoon, but despite thoroughly deserving the victory, he spent most of his time distributing the credit to others. Barker (pictured with the award, above centre) was introduced by Argos' receiver Jermaine Copeland (right) and given the award by CFL commissioner Mark Cohon (left), and he quickly went on to say that he saw the trophy as emblematic of overall organizational progress, not just his own accomplishments.
"This is a nice validation we're on the right track," he said. "It says we're doing things the right way."
For Barker, one of the keys to team success is that everyone buys in and works together, much like a family unit.
"It's getting everyone pulling in the right direction," he said.
Barker has plenty of experience with less-than-united organizations; one of his previous coaching stints was with the Calgary Stampeders under infamous owner Michael Feterik. Barker said working under David Braley is a much better experience.
"Now we have an owner who gets it," he said.
Barker spent plenty of time talking about the contributions of everyone in the Argonauts organization, from equipment managers to media-relations personnel to former general manager Adam Rita. He also cited another legendary CFL coach, Don Matthews, as his mentor and inspiration; Barker served as Matthews' offensive coordinator on the legendary 1997 Argonauts, and said he picked up plenty of coaching tips along the way before his first head-coaching job (with the Argos in 1999, replacing Matthews); he later returned as Matthews' offensive coordinator with the Alouettes for their 2002 Grey Cup run.
"He taught me what it takes to win in this league," Barker said. "He's the number-one guy I draw from. He understood the CFL and what it takes to be successful; that's why he's in the Hall of Fame. I'm proud to be known as a Don Matthews disciple."
That sense of close, familial connections doesn't extend just to Barker's peers on the coaching staff, but also to his players, and the feeling is reciprocated by many of them. Unbeknownst to Barker, the Argos flew receiver Jermaine Copeland into town to give Barker's introductory speech if he was selected. Copeland, who has played on four different teams Barker was involved with (the XFL's Los Angeles Extreme, the Alouettes, the Stampeders and the Argonauts) gave an inspirational introduction and talked about how the players view Barker's leadership.
"Everybody knows about this man and what he's done for the team, what he's done for the organization," Copeland said. "Going with this man from team to team, he's one coach I respect more than anybody."
Those sentiments are definitely returned by Barker, who said acquiring Copeland made a tremendous difference for the 2010 Argonauts, with his veteran leadership paving the way for younger players.
"Cope's a special, special person," Barker said. "He's won championships before; he knows what it takes to win."
It wasn't just Barker's football family that was in attendance, as his 80-year-old mother and two brothers also made it to the ceremony. Barker told a story about his mother's less-than-enthusiastic reaction when he switched majors from business to physical education in college, and it was clear it meant a lot to him to have her and his brothers there.
"It would have been a special day anyway, regardless, but that made a special day perfect."
—Barker said the Argonauts won't be modest about their goals for next season. Rather than hope to sustain or slightly improve from last year, they're shooting for the moon.
"The goal is to win a Grey Cup," he said.
—Barker said he doesn't expect his coaching approach to change next year despite also adding the general manager's hat:
"It won't change at all," he said. "The bottom line is, the players know I'm going to be honest with them about everything. We know what it takes to win now; now we have to go out and do it."
—The Argonauts were interested in free-agent quarterback Jarious Jackson, who signed a new contract with B.C. earlier today. Barker said he wanted to see Jackson's throwing motion and how his recovery from injury had gone before making him a firm offer, but the Argonauts might not have been able to match what B.C. threw out there regardless.
"My question was about his throwing," Barker said. "He couldn't wait. He has family, he had to make a decision, and I couldn't come close to matching what they were going to do."
—Alouettes' coach Marc Trestman, one of the other candidates for the award, had some encouraging words for Montreal fans about the recovery of star quarterback Anthony Calvillo:
"He's doing great," Trestman said. "He's back in the mode of getting ready for another season. He's working harder than any of us."