CFL in the blood of Hamilton Tiger-Cats coaches Milanovich, Reinebold
HAMILTON — He grew up in the heart of Pittsburgh Steeler country so the prospect of wearing black and gold isn't a daunting one for Scott Milanovich.
The 50-year-old native of Butler, Pa., which is located 56 kilometres north of Pittsburgh, is back in the CFL as a senior assistant coach with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Still, seeing Milanovich clad in Ticats attire does take some getting used to considering he spent five seasons as the head coach of the archrival Toronto Argonauts (2012-16).
"It feels a little like home for me being in a steeltown," Milanovich said Wednesday. "I was never a big-city guy so the black and gold fits pretty good to me."
Milanovich joined Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer's staff last week following two seasons as the Indianapolis Colts quarterback coach. Also back is veteran special-teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold, in his third go-round with the Ticats.
This marks Milanovich's fifth coaching stint in Canada. His first was 2003 as Calgary's quarterback coach before returning in 2007 as the Montreal Alouettes quarterback coach.
He added the offensive co-ordinator's job in 2008 under head coach Marc Trestman and was promoted to assistant head coach the following year. Milanovich earned Grey Cup rings in 2009-10 with the Als before being hired by Toronto.
Milanovich spent five seasons with Toronto, winning a Grey Cup and the CFL's coach-of-the-year honour in 2012. He resigned following the 2016 season and joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as quarterback coach on Doug Marrone's staff.
Milanovich returned to Canada as head coach in Edmonton following the 2019 season but never got on the field as the global pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 season. Amid the uncertainty regarding the 2021 campaign — it ultimately began late and with a reduced schedule — Milanovich resigned to pursue NFL opportunities, ultimately landing with Indianapolis to work with head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady (who was Milanovich's offensive coordinator in Toronto).
Sadly, the 2022 season was one to forget for Indianapolis (4-12-1) as Brady was fired following the club's 3-4-1 start. Reich was let go shortly afterwards, replaced on an interim basis by former Colts centre Jeff Saturday.
Indianapolis hired Shane Steichen, the former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator, as head coach in February.
Change is certainly the name of the game in pro football, especially within the coaching ranks. Milanovich, whose father, Gary, was a high-school football coach, said a transient lifestyle comes with the territory.
"Oh yeah, absolutely," he said. "We (Milanovich and his wife, Jaime) just bought a house in Florida that's going be our final one.
"Yeah, we understand it but, really, I've been pretty fortunate."
The move to Hamilton reunites Milanovich with Steinauer, who was Toronto's defensive backs coach in 2012.
"I'm another set of eyes for (Orlondo) and obviously will be another set of eyes and someone Tommy (offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Tommy Condell) can bounce things off," Milanovich said. "I'm just here to help."
Milanovich said his return to the Canadian game has been a seamless one. In fact, it was much easier than having to get used to American football.
"It was harder to go back down south because I'd been up here for 10 years," he said. "I almost had to relearn the 11-man game.
"The big difference for me right now is trying to wrap my head around the different hashes and how you can exploit that. But it's a different environment (in CFL). There's a certain purity and grassroots feel to it and it's still, in my opinion, the second-best football in the world … I've always loved the CFL."
Ditto for Reinebold, 65, who began coaching in the CFL in 1991 with B.C. He has been with six different teams — more than once with the Lions and Hamilton — and served as head coach/GM of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1997-98).
Reinebold, also Hamilton's assistant defensive backs coach, assumed special-teams duties after Craig Butler stepped away after the 2022 season for family reasons. Reinebold rejoined the Ticats after working as director of player development at the University of Hawaii last year.
"This is a special place and it's special for many reasons," Reinebold said. "Football and life are the same, they're about people and we have great people here from (owner) Bob Young all the way through to the business side.
"Orlondo has done an amazing job of putting together a diverse population of coaches and administrative help. But there's a common thing that runs through all of that, and it's quality people. That makes it fun to come to work every day. The CFL game is incredible and then when you have an opportunity to work with great people, it makes it even more fun."
Like Milanovich, Reinebold comes from a coaching family as his father, Jim, coached baseball.
"My father taught me as a kid the measurement of success for a coach is — are the players better because you were there? … Is the organization better because you were there?" Reinebold said. "As much as we chase championships and all of those other things, those are the measuring sticks of what we're in this business for and it's the relationships.
"Life is about people, it's not about things. As much as I love Hawaii, it's home, I love the beach, I love to surf and I love the weather. The thing that makes Hawaii special in its essence is the people in Hawaii and it's the same thing about the people in Hamilton. I've been incredibly blessed during my career to have been with many great players and coaches but this place is a little extra special."
Steinauer was effusive in praising Milanovich and Reinebold, both as coaches and individuals.
"I don't believe you can have enough great people who want to be a part of something," Steinauer said. "Scott and I have had a great relationship that's continued on past our time in 2012 … and he's adding value to value.
"Once we understood Craig wasn't going to make it back for his own personal and family reasons, Jeff was a natural fit. He understands our environment, he's obviously an outstanding coach and person and that's what we want in this building. When it comes to Scott and Jeff, you've got 'A' people and obviously outstanding coaches."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2023.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press