Stubler story with Cats references

This article is from today's Toronto Star. It includes his stint with the Cats which might be of interest to some of you folks.

An Argo-Cat fan

Following in his father's footsteps: New Argo head coach Rich Stubler has family tradition of excellence

Dec 22, 2007 04:30 AM
Rick Matsumoto

Glancing up at a fading back-and-white photo of his father hanging on the wall of his Toronto Argonaut office, Rich Stubler recalled how he hit a pair of home runs in a baseball game as a teenager and was feeling pretty good about himself.

When he got home, the only thing his dad said to him was, "You whiffed, huh?" – a reminder that Stubler had also struck out once during the game.

It was Nick Stubler's way of reminding his son that hitting the ball is what a baseball player is supposed to do. What was more important was figuring out why he struck out.

Stubler said his dad, a legendary high school sports coach in Glenwood Springs, Colo., a tiny community of 4,000 folks in the Rocky Mountains, wasn't criticizing him for striking out, but rather putting things in quiet perspective.

"My dad believed you did your job and did it better than anyone else and then you figured out a way to do it better the next day."

That's a philosophy Stubler applies to his own coaching. He doesn't get excited when his players accomplish the tasks for which they have been trained.

"I don't get excited when we intercept the ball because that's what we're supposed to do," he said. "I don't get excited if we score a touchdown or stop a team at the one-yard line. I do get irritated, though, when we don't because we're not meeting our expectations."

After 38 years as an assistant coach, the 58-year-old Stubler finally achieved his goal of being a head coach when he was named to replace Mike (Pinball) Clemons.

The low-key Stubler has no intention of trying to follow in the footsteps of the excitable Clemons.

Stubler's philosophy has always been to simply let his players do what they do best, rather than forcing them into playing a particular style.

It's a technique that Hall of Fame free safety Paul Bennett, who played with the Argos, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and finally for Stubler with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, still applauds.

"He was never intimidated by players who had a sixth sense or an innate ability to play outside the box," said Bennett. "He allowed me to play my game, to be who I was. His ego was never such that it was `my way or the highway.'"

A severe knee injury in his second year as a fullback and linebacker at the University of Wyoming ended Stubler's playing career. He switched to Northern Colorado and obtained the degrees he needed to become a teacher and coach. However, when he returned to Glenwood Springs, he found there were no teaching jobs available. He got a job at Sears selling sporting goods.

But then the person who had been hired as the assistant coach at Roaring Forks High School, 12 miles down the valley, died unexpectedly. Head coach Bill Hanks called Stubler. He spent three years as Hanks' assistant and helped the school win a state championship.

"Rich was very eager, ambitious and smart; a really bright guy," said Hanks. "He got along well with everybody. Not only was he a good football coach, but he was also an excellent teacher in the classroom."

Stubler's greatest attribute, however, is his integrity, said Hanks.

"You've got to understand the family he came from. He's from a wonderful family of high integrity."

Stubler admits he sees a lot of his late father in himself.

"I kinda get away from all the fluff and stuff. That's not part of who I am. I'm a fairly simple individual. My dad was like that. There was the right way and the wrong way to do things. He told me there was never the right way to do the wrong thing and no wrong way to do the right thing

"I appreciate my dad more than you can imagine. He gave me a great work ethic. When we worked we worked, but when we played we played."

Stubler's mother, Rachael, also deceased, was a tiny, athletic woman who was a member of a circus troupe that travelled throughout Colorado before she married Stubler's father. She was in the trapeze act as the woman who is hoisted high in the air with a rope clenched between her teeth and then spins around. Later, she was a member of a synchronized swimming team.

Asked about his reputation as an honest, straightforward individual, Stubler offered a simple, almost embarrassed nod.

"If you live with integrity you're not afraid to answer questions," he said. "I tell my kids (players), `If you don't want to really know how you're doing, don't ask me because I'll tell you and I'll be real honest.'"

Stubler's success at Roaring Forks took him to the University of Colorado and from there to New Mexico State, SMU and Colorado State. He found himself unexpectedly in Canada after the entire Colorado State coaching staff was fired following the '82 season. He had taken a job with the Dallas Cowboys as a part-time scout when a fellow college coach, Del White, introduced him to Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach Bud Riley.

"Bud asked if I wanted to come to Canada to coach the defence," said Stubler. "He flew me up, we talked and he hired me. It was like I fell off the end of the world.

"I came in February. It was cold and snowing and they put me up at the City Motor Hotel. It was probably the worst place I could ever imagine living."

Ivor Wynne Stadium wasn't much more appealing.

"The offices were painted black. The day I got here (owner) Harold Ballard had moved everything out because he was in a power struggle, so I didn't even have a place to go to work."

Stubler, however, persevered and remained as the Ticats' defensive co-ordinator for seven seasons, winning the first of his four Grey Cup rings in 1986.

The others came with the Eskimos (1993), Lions (2000) and the 2004 Argos.

Ron Lancaster, the Eskimos' then-head coach, described Stubler as "different."

"He doesn't do things the way most coaches do," said Lancaster.

Stubler, who lists golf and "trashy" novels as his other enjoyments, agrees he's not the stereotypical coach.

"When I get home from practice I turn football off. I don't obsess about football. I understand that football is me, but I'm able sleep at night. I won't stay awake worrying about plays or players. That's what I do when I'm here working."

Wonderful post, Barney. I guess I can be a Stubler fan without being an Argo fan, and indeed, I am.

He exudes integrity and appears to have all his ducks in a row. I've watched his career with great interest and he is dedicated to his profession and wise not to take it home with him.

I think the potential exists for Rich Stubler to be a great head coach in the CFL.