Orlando Steinauer says there was a time when he fought the urge to get into coaching after his playing career was done.
With those days clearly behind him and eight years of experience on the sidelines under his belt, Steinauer was introduced Monday as the 26th head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He takes over for June Jones, who stepped aside to give Steinauer the reins but will remain with the team as associate coach and offensive co-ordinator.
The Ticats had to make the unusual coaching shuffle in order to retain the sought-after coach, who was an assistant on Jones’s staff last season. Both the Toronto Argonauts and B.C. Lions asked Hamilton for permission to talk to Steinauer about their vacant head coach positions.
Steinauer said retaining Jones on the staff was a key reason for him to remain in Hamilton.
“For June to make the suggestion to step aside speaks volumes for him,” Steinauer said at a press conference. “To be able to retain him on this staff is an amazing thing for me.
“He’s still going to be a guy that I lean on a lot, and I just look forward to continuing to build the relationship with him and build a sustainable model here.”
The 45-year-old Steinauer started his coaching career with the Toronto Argonauts in 2010 and has had a steady rise since, but originally he wasn’t sure this was the path he wanted to take.
“I always saw myself as a coach, I kind of fought it,” he said. “I was really reluctant.”
He said the first time former Argos general manager Jim Barker called him with a job offer, he turned it down.
“I just told him I wasn’t ready to put my family through this coaching thing,” he said.
He eventually joined the Argos’ staff, getting promoted to defensive co-ordinator in 2011. He was retained as a defensive backs coach when Scott Milanovich took over as Argos head coach in 2012.
He moved to Hamilton in 2013 to become defensive co-ordinator under head coach Kent Austin before leaving to take the same job with NCAA Division 1 school Fresno State in 2017, helping the Bulldogs to a West Division title in the Mountain West Conference. His stay in U.S. college football was short-lived, however, as he returned to Hamilton as an assistant coach last season.
“My reason for coming back is I had an opportunity to learn from lifers,” Steinauer said. “To learn from Jerry (defensive co-ordinator Jerry Glanville) and June.
“It was tough, because sometimes you get caught up the power of a dollar and all these other things. I’m 45, not 35. So if it was about money I wouldn’t be here. This was about growth, this was about family, this was being a better person being a better man. This was the best spot for me.”
Jones guided the team to an 8-10 record in the regular season. The Tiger-Cats finished second in the East and reached the division final before falling to Ottawa.
“After working closely with Orlondo last season, it was obvious to me that he’s ready to take the next step in his career and become a head coach in the CFL,” Jones said. “He’s earned this opportunity and the time was now. I made a decision that in order to put our best foot forward and bring a Grey Cup championship back to Hamilton, we needed to keep him here and expand his role.
“Winning is the most important thing and I’m excited about our great opportunity for success in 2019 with Orlondo returning as head coach.”
Jones said he recently approached CEO Scott Mitchell with a suggestion to make the changes, adding he also talked to Steinauer about his options.
“I just felt that this was the best opportunity for him to be a Grey Cup champion here faster than anywhere else,” Jones said on a conference call.
Steinauer won two Grey Cups over his 13-year CFL playing career. He was named an all-star at three different positions (cornerback, halfback and safety) and his 1,178 interception return yards are the second-most in league history.