HAMILTON — For Orlondo Steinauer, taking over as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach was a natural progression.
As he puts it, his coaching experience in both the CFL and NCAA groomed the 45-year-old for the biggest jump of his career.
He began coaching in Toronto as defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator with the Argonauts (2010-2012) then moved on to the Tiger-Cats as defensive coordinator (2013-2016) before spending a year with the Fresno State Bulldogs in the NCAA in 2017. He returned to the Tabbies in 2018 as assistant head coach and has now moved up the ranks to the top dog in Hamilton.
“Moving from an assistant head coach to the head coach, it’s just a lot more experience,” Steinauer told CFL.ca earlier in January in Mont-Tremblant. “I’ve just been around, I’ve seen a lot more, I’m more comfortable. I know more about my expectations as a coach to convey to other people. Being a defensive coordinator up here for five years and then going to the NCAA for a year, experience is the bottom line.”
With two teams this off-season searching for new bench bosses – Toronto and BC had vacant head coach positions – and both interested in Steinauer, the Ticats needed to act fast if they wanted to keep the former defensive back in black and gold.
June Jones stepped aside in December, allowing Steinauer to take the reigns and stay in Tiger Town.
“For me, at 45 years old, the best opportunity for me to continue to grow was to seize an opportunity like this,” Steinauer said of his promotion. “The fact that everything aligned and June (Jones) was on board with it, it just made sense.”
After spending the majority of his coaching career on the defensive side of the ball, Steinauer is looking forward to the opportunity to work alongside the offence in Hamilton, an offence that includes the East’s Most Outstanding Player, Jeremiah Masoli.
“Working on the offensive side of the ball has always been a goal,” said Steinauer. “Dream is too strong of a word but when you rise as quick as I did, you stay generally on one side of the ball, which is great, but I kind of studied offences for 20 years, 12 as a player and however many here as a coach, and you really don’t get to study installs on offence. It is another tool in the belt.
“I don’t know if it makes you any more ready to be a head coach or anything. Those are things you just have to jump in with two feet and do what got you there.”
2018 saw the Tiger-Cats boast one of the league’s most potent offences, finishing 8-10 and eventually losing to the Ottawa REDBLACKS in the Eastern Final.
Hamilton will hope that with Steinauer as their leader that they can make the jump in 2019 and that he can take the team to the Grey Cup. There’s some work to be done between now and then, however.
Locking down key pending free agents is priority No. 1 for Steinauer and co., as many key pieces could hit the open market in February. Star receiver Brandon Banks, shutdown corner Delvin Breaux and the league’s third-leading tackler Larry Dean are just a few names on the team’s pending free agent list.
Once the roster is finalized by the spring and the season gets underway, Steinauer may be the final piece of the puzzle that brings Hamilton their first championship in 20 years.
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