Riders promote Ken Miller to head coach
New Saskatchewan bench boss hailed as 'pure substance' by GM Tillman
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are hoping the hiring of a second consecutive rookie CFL coach will lead to another Grey Cup championship.
The defending champions confirmed Wednesday that offensive co-ordinator Ken Miller is the Canadian Football League team's new coach, succeeding Kent Austin.
"As we go forward, our goal will be to achieve the very same high levels of excellence we established during the 2007 season," Miller said. "Success is achieved as good people work together toward a common goal."
Austin left the post after one season to become the offensive co-ordinator at his alma mater, Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi).
He was hailed as a hero across Saskatchewan when the Riders defeated Winnipeg 23-19 in the 95th Grey Cup in Toronto on Nov. 25.
After Austin departed with two years remaining on his contract, Roughriders general manager Eric Tillman said he wanted a coach he knew or had worked with previously.
Last season was Miller's first in Saskatchewan after the 66-year-old spent the previous five seasons on the Argonauts' coaching staff working with Austin, a former offensive co-ordinator in Toronto.
"Because we worked together so closely from 2004 until just recently, I think that a lot of the things we do are very, very similar," Miller told reporters and players gathered in the Riders' locker-room.
"I may be a little bit quieter I think, perhaps on occasion less demonstrative, but no less intense."
From 2003-05, Miller ran an Argos offensive line that enabled veteran CFL quarterback Damon Allen to win league MVP honours in 2004.
Before joining the CFL in 2002, Miller spent nearly four decades in various coaching roles at the university and high school levels in southern California.
Tillman described Miller as an outstanding communicator and a consensus builder, yet a man who can be decisive when needed.
"Kenny comes across sometimes as more soft spoken than Kent," laughed Tillman. "Kent used to call Kenny ruthless when it came to offensive game planning. So offensive aggressiveness will not be an issue here.
"It may be in a quieter package, but he's a highly, highly competitive individual."
Tillman added that Miller called 95 per cent or more of the offensive plays
An Oregon native, Miller gained experience on both sides of the ball after starting his coaching career as a student assistant coach with Dickinson State in 1966.
Miller maintains a home in Oregon with his wife Maureen. They have a daughter, Kail, and son, Bob.
Roughriders assistant coach Mike Gibson and defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall were also in the running for the team's coaching vacancy, according to the Regina Leader-Post.
Hall, an assistant in Saskatchewan for 14 years, was the first of 12 candidates interviewed by Tillman, while Gibson spent the 2007 season as the Riders' assistant coach/offensive line coach.
Among the external candidates, according to the Leader-Post, were Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive line coach Richard Harris and long-time CFL coach Dave Ritchie, who last week was turfed as defensive co-ordinator of the B.C. Lions.
Saskatchewan finished with a 12-6 regular-season record in 2007 — the most victories by a rookie coach in franchise history — and hosted a playoff game for the first time since 1987.
"As coaches, we are very fortunate to have a tremendous nucleus in our locker-room," Miller said. "Our men have demonstrated leadership, character, and a clear understanding of the significance and value of teamwork, all of which are required to win a championship."
Roughriders wide receiver Matt Dominguez said he thinks Miller is "going to be awesome," while fullback Chris Szarka called the new coach a "great fit" for the organization.
With files from the Canadian Press