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Als’ assistant coaches in limbo

Await brass’s decision on future of Popp

By Herb Zurkowsky,
Montreal Gazette

TORONTO – It’s a decision that will affect many people. As Alouettes owner Robert Wetenhall and president Larry Smith contemplate Jim Popp’s future, several assistant coaches on his staff wait as well, wondering about their futures with the organization.

“At this time of year, it’s always a chess match, especially with assistant coaches. Nobody wants to be in limbo right now. Clarity would make the decision-process easier,” said Noel Thorpe, Montreal’s special-teams coordinator and defensive-backs coach.

“When you get into this business, sooner or later this situation happens. Being patient is part of the business.”

Thorpe and defensive coordinator Chris Jones have contracts that expire Dec. 31. Thorpe said there have been “discussions” about a new deal, while Jones contends the offer of a one-year extension, received midway through the season, remains on the table, despite the uncertainty surrounding Popp.

Popp could remain with the Als as head coach and general manager, although that seems unlikely after Montreal (8-10) lost its playoff game. He could return to being GM exclusively or he could be fired outright.

And that decision could greatly affect Jones and Thorpe. Both claimed they would have no trouble working under Popp should he return as coach. Both might also be saying that to protect themselves, in case nothing else materializes. But Jones will be coveted as a coordinator by many teams – Calgary being the leading candidate – should he become available. Thorpe, meanwhile, could resurface in Edmonton, where the Esks fired special-teams coach Scott Squires.

“I won’t sign anything until I figure out what they’re doing. But I’ve also done a good enough job that I can find another job,” Jones said.

Should Popp remain GM, but relinquish his coaching duties, the Als could have trouble finding a coach to work under him. That dilemma would be avoided by promoting from within, and Jones remains the leading candidate under that scenario.

“No question, I’ve done the necessary things to warrant being considered a head coach. But I certainly wouldn’t want to get it out of politicking. Before they make that decision, I want it to be because I’m the best candidate,” Jones said.

It’s also believed the contracts of Tim Kearse (receivers) and John Kropke (defensive line) are expiring. But offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille, Brad Miller (assistant head coach and defensive ends), Charlie Carpenter (offensive line) and Scott Milanovich (quarterbacks) have contracts for 2008.

Note: Guard Scott Flory and punter Damon Duval were named CFL all-stars yesterday.