After a couple of months of being named the head coach of the Gryphons, Kevin MacNeill figures his approach to the job hasn’t changed.
“It lets me sleep a little more at night, I guess,” he said.
MacNeill spent a year as the interim head coach, replacing Stu Lang who stepped down from the head coaching position shortly after the Mitchell Bowl national semifinal loss to the Montreal Carabins in 2015. MacNeill had the interim portion of his title removed the week before Christmas.
“It doesn’t change a whole lot,” he said. “The transition was great in terms of the coaches’ buy-in and the players buy-in and stuff like that, the support from the administration and alumni. The reality was that there’s been great support around me throughout the process and that hasn’t changed now that the tag has been dropped. We tried to operate without thinking about that tag and now instead of pretending about not thinking about it, we just don’t think about it.”
However, it might help on the recruiting front as the team hunts for future Gryphons.
“It helps get ourselves organized and have a firm direction to go with recruits so it definitely helps given that they know there’s going to be some stability over the next few years here,” MacNeill said.
In his first season in charge of the Gryphons, a couple of things stand out for MacNeill.
“The resiliency of the kids and the coaching staff,” he said. “The amount of things we went through last year with the schedule and all the things that happened with injuries and sicknesses and illnesses, the big thing for me that I look back at was how resilient the kids were and how resilient the coaching staff were. They never stopped fighting. They never quit right to the last play. I think we lost three games last year on the last play kind of thing. That can be really disheartening and our kids responded very well to it. They did a good job. They did a good job of fighting and battling and I was really proud of them at the end of the year.”
That 3-5 season last year and the quarter-final loss to the McMaster Marauders are a couple of things the Gryphons can use as extra motivation to get ready for the 2017 campaign. However, MacNeill doesn’t think that will be necessary.
“We kind of have a culture here of pushing ourselves past our limits so, yeah maybe there’s a little extra chip on their shoulder come game time next season, but in terms of the work ethic and the level of expectation that we have with our players, that’s always about pushing the envelope and getting the bar as high as we can possibly push it,” he said. That hasn’t changed with our off-season stuff.”
The Gryphons are in the midst of their pre-season training as they prepare for their training camp that is to start in mid-August. They’re to kick off their 2017 season with a home game against the Ottawa Gee-Gees Aug. 27.