Don Matthews took over as head coach of the Alouettes in 2002. ((Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press))

Don Matthews has resigned as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes because of illness, the team announced Wednesday.

Specifics were not revealed, butteam president Larry Smith said Matthews' condition is not life-threatening.

"He had some health issues that were affecting his ability to perform," Smith said. "This is not a life-threatening situation, but it is important for him as an individual and human being to be able to make some conscious decisions."

Matthews, 67,missed Montreal's Wednesday practice, which was held hours before the announcement.

General manager Jim Poppwill take over the Alouettes' coaching job for the rest of the season.Popp also tookthe reinslate in 2001 after Rod Rust was fired.

"I'm not Don Matthews,"Poppsaid. "I'll have my own style. There won't be a lot of change. We'll continue doing things as we have. We've had tremendous success."

CFL on CBC analyst Greg Frers thinks the Alouettes could overcome the departure of their legendary coach.

"The functional pieces are still in place with the offensive and defensive co-ordinators and the players," Frers told CBC Sports Online. "Don functioned more as an administrator, while Jim Popp was very involved as a GM in the day-to-day operations of the team.

"Jim Popp is very well liked and a very good football mind. He's very good at maximizing the talent of his players."

Frers believes Alouettes offensive co-ordinator Kevin Strasser and defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones would be interested in taking over the Alouettes head coaching job next season.

"I've been impressed with [Jones's] ability to evolve the defence in Montreal," Frers told CBC Sports Online. "But it would be very difficult to sell Strasser now because the offence has really struggled."

Smith said Wednesday that Matthews informed him as well as owner Robert Wetenhall and Popp about his health issues a month ago.

'Took the initiative'

"Mr. Matthews took the initiative to come to us 30 days ago to tell us, 'Look, I'm not well. If you guys want me to stay around I will, if you don't, I'll go,' " Smith said, adding the decision to have Matthews stay was made "not just because of what he did for the organization but for what he represents to the players."

"I can assure you from Mr. Wetenhall, to myself to Jim, that Mr. Matthews was not fired."

Frers, though, likened the announcement to the time in 2001 when Matthews was let go by the struggling Edmonton Eskimos. There was speculation at the time that Matthews' health was used as a convenient reason to make a coaching change.

The 8-6 Alouettes, tied with Toronto for first in the East division,snapped a six-game losing streak on Friday night with a victory in Winnipeg.

There were reports two weeks ago that Matthews — the Canadian Football League's all-time winningest coach — was in his final season in Montreal. However, the team denied reports it had spoken to Calgary Stampeders' GM Jim Barker about taking over.

Matthewsjoined the Alouettes in 2002 and promptly led them to the Grey Cup championship, his recordfifth as a head coach.He also guidedthe Alouettesto the Grey Cup game in 2003 and 2005. In almost five seasons with Montreal, Matthews compiled a record of 66-28.

A native of Amesbury, Mass., who recently became a Canadian citizen, Matthews leaves with a record 231 career CFL wins as well as 13 postseason victories.

With files from the Canadian Press