In most cases, a .500 regular-season record wouldn't win you a Coach of the Year award. The 2012 Toronto Argonauts proved an exception to that, though, and thanks largely to their remarkable playoff run to a hometown Grey Cup victory, head coach Scott Milanovich was honoured Thursday with the CFL's Annis Stukus Trophy as the 2012 Coach of the Year. All three finalists for the award (Milanovich, Calgary coach/general manager John Hufnagel and B.C. coach Mike Benevides) were good candidates, but Milanovich's performance stood out. While his 9-9 regular-season record was far from overwhelming, he managed to eventually integrate key offensive elements like Ricky Ray and Chad Kackert and put together a club that got hot at just the right time, winning three straight postseason games to earn the team's first Grey Cup since 2004. Not bad for a rookie head coach.
It's notable that Milanovich's win is the second time a Toronto coach has claimed this trophy in three seasons, as Jim Barker won it for the 2010 season. Barker is still with the franchise and is currently serving as the Argonauts' general manager; Milanovich credited Barker for playing an important role in his development as a coach, both through what he did and what he didn't do.
"He had the courage once he'd hired me to step back and let me do it my way," Milanovich said. "I'm really thankful for his friendship and his leadership and all he's meant to my career."
Milanovich said the Argonauts' organization was crucial to his success, too, and the camaraderie amongst their players was a key part of their run to the Grey Cup.
"I loved our lockerroom," Milanovich said. "They had a true love for each other. ...I honestly believe that's why we were able to accomplish what we accomplished, that team unity in the lockerroom."
Milanovich said his players made his job enjoyable.
"It was my honour to be their head coach," he said. "I loved coming to work every day."
If the Argos keep playing as well as they did at the end of 2012, Milanovich may love coming to work for the foreseeable future. The team took a bit of a gamble on him given that he hadn't been a head coach before, but it paid off in spades in 2012, and this award is just further proof of that. We'll see if the Milanovich hire continues to pay off for the Argonauts down the road.