WINNIPEG — Recently fired Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike Kelly will remain in legal limbo until the New Year.
Kelly was supposed to appear in a Pennsylvania court Wednesday on domestic assault charges, but his lawyer can’t attend and has asked for a new date that will likely be in January.
“Mike maintains his innocence and we will vigorously defend the charges,” Kelly’s criminal lawyer, Tim Woodward, told The Canadian Press in a phone call Monday from his Norristown, Penn., office.
“I think you’re going to find when this is all said and done, he got a raw deal.”
Kelly, 51, was arrested and charged with simple assault and harassment of his ex-girlfriend at his Bridgeport home last Thursday morning.
Bridgeport police said the woman had come to the home to pick up some belongings and the pair got into an argument. The woman had a small cut on her finger, an abrasion on her lip and some redness on her neck. Kelly had redness, bruising and swelling on his face.
The Bombers learned of the arrest shortly after the team held a press conference to announce Lyle Bauer’s resignation as the CFL club’s president and CEO after 10 years. He hired Kelly and backed him up after the 7-11 playoff-less season.
The team’s board of directors held an emergency meeting the same evening and announced Kelly’s firing based on his season’s performance, ending his controversial rookie year.
Speculation is Kelly, who’s believed to have two years left on his contract, may sue the Bombers over his dismissal.
Woodward said he only handles criminal matters and Kelly wouldn’t comment.
“In situations like these you find out who your real friends are,” Kelly said Monday in a phone call from his Bridgeport home.
“I’m getting by right now.”
Bombers board chairman Ken Hildahl met with reporters Monday to update the process of filling the club’s sudden vacancies.
When asked if he expected Kelly to sue the team, Hildahl said, “Who knows?”
“These things tend to go in that direction,” he added. “Hopefully not.”
The Bombers are planning to fill three positions: head coach, vice-president of football operations and president.
The team announced Monday Ross Hodgkinson will be interim vice-president of football operations and Jim Bell will remain interim president of the club, a position he was put in following Bauer’s resignation.
Hodgkinson has been the team’s director of football operations since 2006 and will continue to work with John Murphy, the club’s director of player personnel.
“Ross has been with us a number of years now and we think it’s vitally important moving forward that we send a clear signal that it’s business as usual for the Winnipeg Football Club with respect to any moves on the football operations side,” Hildahl said, adding Hodgkinson will have the power to sign and/or trade players.
The board is forming a selection committee for the job searches. It hasn’t committed to filling one position before another and hasn’t set a deadline.
“Obviously the focus will be on the football side, get that solidified, and then look at the business side of the organization,” said Hildahl, adding the board will meet every two weeks for updates.
David Asper, who may soon be the Bombers’ new owner with his company Creswin building a new stadium, will be consulted on any hirings.
There’s been “very significant interest” for all three positions, Hildahl said.
One person considered the frontrunner for the head-coaching job is Hamilton defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, who held the same position with Winnipeg from 2005-08. He lost out on the head job to Kelly and Doug Berry before him.
Marshall has indicated he’s interested in the vacancy, as has Saskatchewan offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice, who did the same job for Winnipeg in 2002-03.
Other names being tossed around include Calgary offensive co-ordinator George Cortez and Montreal offensive co-ordinator Scott Milanovich.
Hildahl knows how important it is to hire the right person this time around. Many fans were turned off by Kelly’s brash nature and some of his questionable player moves.
“From time to time mistakes do get made, and I think we’re in this situation maybe because of that,” Hildahl said.
“But it’s hard to say in hindsight. We’re going to put into place a very solid selection process . . . We’ll work through it to the point where we’re satisfied that we’ve got the best candidates moving forward for all three positions.”