Three years ago, Danny Maciocia spurned an offer to become the Alouettes’ president of football operations.
Instead, his desire was to become the team’s general manager — a position that went to Kavis Reed. Now, Maciocia’s dream is about to be fulfilled.
The Als on Monday morning will announce the hirings of Maciocia as GM and Montreal businessman Mario Cecchini as president. The two appointments were hinted at almost immediately after the sale of the team was announced last Monday to Ontario-based steel magnates Sid Spiegel and Gary Stern.
If the arrival of the unilingual Stern — only he and CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie attended last Monday’s hastily called news conference — wasn’t embraced, the hirings of Maciocia and Cecchini, both of whom are bilingual and popular, should be well received.
Maciocia, 52, lives in St-Léonard and has been the head coach at Université de Montréal since 2011. He guided the Carabins to the Vanier Cup in 2014 along with two other appearances in the national championship game, including last November, when they lost to Calgary.
Maciocia returns to the Als for the first time since 2001, when he left as offensive co-ordinator to join the Edmonton Eskimos in a similar capacity. He was named the Eskimos’ head coach in 2005, winning the Grey Cup that season — coincidentally against Montreal.
He was named Edmonton’s GM and director of football operations in 2008, only to be fired five games into the 2010 season. He’s the only head coach to boast victories in both the Grey and Vanier Cups.
Maciocia originally joined the Als in 1996 as a quality control coach — a volunteer position. The Als went to the Grey Cup in 2000, under head coach Charlie Taaffe, only to be upset by B.C.
Maciocia had no previous association with Stern — who last Monday said he hoped to have a new president and GM in place by the end of the week — or Spiegel for that matter.
With Stern, who will be the Als’ lead governor, new to the CFL, it’s likely he relied on both Ambrosie and Wally Buono to assist him in the identification of candidates. Buono, the Lions’ former GM and head coach, was hired by the league as an adviser to former president Patrick Boivin before the team was sold.
The Als last month announced they were suspending their GM search until new ownership was found.
Montreal made the unusual, but necessary, move of extending the contract of head coach Khari Jones in early December. Normally, the GM hires his own head coach. But now Maciocia will inherit Jones, who led the Als to a 10-8 record last season. It was Montreal’s first winning season since 2012; its first playoff appearance since 2014.
Jones, a former CFL quarterback, had two brief stints with the Eskimos — under Maciocia as head coach — near the end of his playing career. Nonetheless, the two undoubtedly are familiar with each other, Jones, when he was an Als assistant coach, likely having scouted Carabins games.
Given his position at the university — one that came with tenure — combined with the Carabins’ success, Maciocia undoubtedly must have signed both a lucrative and long-term contract with the Als.
But Maciocia also had accomplished virtually everything he could at the school, a perennial powerhouse, and likely was ready for a new challenge at this point in his career. And, given his coaching pedigree, there will be whispers of him returning to the sideline should Jones and the Als falter moving forward.
One thing’s certain: With free agency a month away, Maciocia will have to roll his sleeves up and get to work immediately.
Cecchini, meanwhile, is ideally suited for his new job. He’s the former president of Corus Media Quebec and a former senior vice-president (sales and marketing) for Astral Radio. Sales and marketing are two of the Als’ most immediate challenges.
When Len Rhodes, a former Eskimos president, said he had no interest in moving to Montreal, his birthplace, Cecchini became the most obvious candidate.