Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Back Again

Back again after an extended absence due to some unforeseen, anxious, but in-the-end, initially-overstated issues related to my health. The good news is my 1980's vintage-Lifecycle (Level 12 max.) continues to purr like a kitten and my wife's creative culinary skills continually make rabbit food taste like a medium rare New Yorker so all is good. Many thanks to the numerous friends who visited or called with well wishes - they were very much appreciated and helped pass the time especially initially. I hope to continue providing my thoughts on CIS basketball for many years to come and while coverage may not be as comprehensive as I would like it to be to help communicate info about the sport we love, I do plan to be as active as life will allow.

Without question, the 2010 CIS men’s basketball off-season has been the most active and controversial in some time, highlighted by the unprecedented number of Head Coaching changes across the country – the coaching churn this summer has likely set an all-time record for changes, certainly since going back to the early 1970’s.

One of the Dean’s of CIS coaching, York’s Bob Bain, got the ball rolling in his humble way earlier this year, retiring after 37 seasons in North York. It was great to see Coach Bain at the Nationals and he was very deserving of the halftime ceremony on the Saturday night honouring his great career. Probably most gratifying for Coach Bain was the wonderful night a few weeks prior to the Nationals at Tait McKenzie Gym where a "who's who" of OUA/CIS players and officials were on hand to celebrate Bob Bain Night. Coach Bain leaves the Lions with a plethora of young talent and the program was justifiably loyal to Bain's long-time assistant Tom Oliveri, who, after 13 years at Bain's side, takes over the head job at York. Oliveri historically has been one of the hardest working on the recruiting trail and guided the Lions in 2004-05 when Bain took a sabbatical. This past season, the young Lions upset a veteran Varsity Blues group in the first round of the OUA East playoffs and were in it for much of their OUA East semi-final against eventual CIS semi-finalist Carleton Ravens before bowing out. After a terrible start characterized by several lopsided losses and a porous “d” in the first half, the Lions became much more formidable as the season progressed – especially scoring the ball, highlighted by a shocking upset regular season win at home in February against the Ravens. York plays an exciting offensive style, pushing the tempo whenever possible and on many possessions taking the first open look available. This season saw the emergence of two prized freshman 6’10” Dejan Kravic, who did not disappoint as a heralded big man and 6’6” Ostap Chioly, who was much less touted but rapidly matured into an offensive force and could easily develop into an all-conference-type with more consistency. As 5’10” point guard David Tyndale, who prepares for his third season looking to continue to gain confidence making decisions as a lead guard, pushes toward all-OUA East status and the hard-working Oliveri brings in another top class, expect the young Lions to make the OUA East much deeper conference top-to-bottom.

In Ottawa, the Gee-Gees witnessed the departure of Head Coach Dave DeAveiro, the most successful coach in program history, to McGill to lead the Redmen. The move did not come as a surprise to most, given DeAveiro had considered at least one other CIS job (Ryerson) last summer although the destination may have caught some off guard: McGill AD’s Drew Love is the former Athletic Director at Carleton, against which the Gee-Gees had numerous “Canal Wars” over the years, so once-bitter rivals have become partners. The Redmen are likely to experience a large turnover in personnel from last season’s QSSF semi-finalist under Craig Norman as Paul Herra and others graduate. DeAveiro hit the ground running, having already secured several key recruits including Hoopstars Top 10 shooting guard 6’2” Simon Bibeau, who some compare favorably to former Gee-Gee Donnie Gibson and, as importantly, adding John Dangelas to his coaching staff. Dangelas coached 12 seasons at Champlain CEGEP in Lennoxville where he mentored numerous NCAA Division 1 players. McGill will likely be very young and inexperienced at guard spots however DeAveiro’s presence should make the Q even more competitive.

There were two astonishing “out of left field” type moves, both in the OUA West, as two of Canada’s finest and most successful coaches both unceremoniously left their programs - by virtually any athletic standard both had careers worthy of being categorized as institutions at their respective University’s. In early May came the jolting news that 20 year veteran Joe Raso’s agreement to coach the Marauders was not going to be renewed. The news sent shock waves through the CIS coaching fraternity and through the Hamilton basketball community. Much has been written in CIS related blogs and chat groups about this move however in Raso, the CIS loses an upper echelon coach who was engrained in the Hamilton basketball community and, from my experiences preparing to play Mac over the years, always one of the top technical minds in the game. It was always very difficult to play Mac because Joe had his team ready for your sets and every guy played extremely hard on every possession. Raso is a proven winner who had just assembled one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Unfortunately for Joe, he will not be coaching his son Victor, who had a very strong freshman season at McMaster. At least two current CIS coaches: Toronto native and Alberta head man Greg Francis and Windsor Head Coach Chris Oliver were interviewed for the position (Oliver considered and subsequently turned the job down) however the Marauders have settled on playing alumnus and assistant coach Amos Connolly. Mac stayed within their family, getting a local guy with strong roots in the community and with a long-term contract, Connolly should get ample opportunity to bring the Marauders back into a perennial Top 10 team in a tough league. As well, expect the foundation of the Marauders to continue to flourish as the Hamilton basketball community has a deep and loyal affinity to the program and Coach Raso had one of his more athletic and talented rosters coming back for next season.

Down the QEW in St. Catharines, two-time National champion Ken Murray resigned from his Head Coaching position at Brock. Murray, who guided the Badgers to CIS championships in 1992 and 2008, had been previously planning retirement in the not-too-distant future with a view of grooming Assistant Coach Brad Rootes for the top job, moved up his retirement in the midst of some player controversy this past season. Murray took the high road in the situation and without saying so explicitly, left the door open to coach again. Brock was a very competitive program over Murray's tenure and Ken should be proud of his many accomplishments leading the Badgers. The Badgers have announced that Rootes has been named interim Head Coach, at age 25 maybe youngest-ever mentors in the CIS. With Brock AD Lorne Adams resigning recently, Brock athletics has had significant recent turnover and former Badger women’s coach Chris Critelli becomes interim AD. Murray leaves an outstanding legacy at Brock, winning two rings during his career, placing him in regal company as only 5 coaches in the history of the CIS won done more (Ken Shields, Dave Smart, Jerry Hemmings, Steve Konchalski and Don Horwood).

The uOttawa coaching vacancy was recently filled by Gee-Gees alumnus James Derouin, who most recently was on the coaching staff of the UBC Thunderbirds, two-time CIS Nationals finalists under Head Coach Kevin Hanson. Word has it that the hiring committee, which included Gee-Gees women’s coach Andy Sparks and former Gee-Gees men’s star Marko Jovic, interviewed three candidates: Humber College Head Coach and Canadian National student team assistant Darrell Glenn, Derouin and Rootes, who also has reportedly interviewed at McMaster and UNBC. Glenn had the most experience among the candidates with a long, successful stint at Humber as both assistant under legendary Mike Katz and Head Coach plus several summers in the National team program working alongside Guelph’s Chris O’Rourke.

The Gee-Gees remained true to their basketball family in hiring the bilingual Derouin, an Ottawa native who played two seasons for the Gee-Gees earlier this decade and then spent another couple of seasons as an Assistant under DeAveiro. Derouin is a known quantity to the uOttawa administration and had the formal backing of several active Gee-Gees basketball alumni. Derouin becomes the third consecutive Gee-Gees Head Coach who is a basketball alumnus (after DeAveiro and Jack Eisenmann) - going back to the late 1980's, the Gee-Gees have had an ex-player as Head Coach. Derouin, originally from Orleans, played for Hanson and with current T-Birds lead assistant Randy Nohr, winning a CCAA National championship at Langara College in the early 90’s and his move out west to the T-Birds coaching staff coincided with UBC’s dramatic improvement as a team at the defensive end. Although the Gee-Gees lost All-Canadian point guard Josh Gibson-Bascombe and stalward wing Donnie Gibson to graduation, talent remains in the program, led by emerging third-year All-Canadian candidate Warren Ward. Ward recommitted to Derouin and the program moments after he heard of DeAveiro's departure although Ward recently tore some ligaments in his left (non-shooting) thumb and will be out of action anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months depending upon the rehab. Derouin has hit the ground running in an effort to maintain the current roster of returnees and bring in other talented young athletes.

There were other coaching changes in the CIS including the announcement that Greg Jockims was taking a year sabbatical and Gil Cheung taking over at Brandon. We will have more on these changes hopefully later in the summer.

AUS finalist St. FX X-Men expect to have very little roster turnover coming into the 2010-11 season as only 6’6” Terrence Taylor is unlikely to return and Coach Steve Konchalski will add transfer Ellis Ffrench, a guard who sat our last season as a redshirt after spending his freshman season at Windsor in 2008-09. Ffrench, who arguably was Atlantic Canada’s top high school graduating point guard three years ago, has trimmed down considerably after putting on about 20 pounds of muscle from a rigorous weight training program while at Windsor. The reduced weight has apparently brought back much of Ffrench’s quickness as he and All-Canadian T-Bear Upshaw look to create some chemistry together at both the defensive and offensive ends for the exciting, up-tempo style the X-Men typically deploy. Another probable significant re-addition to the X-Men roster for this coming season should be 6’3” Dwayne Johnson, who sat out all of last season with a knee injury and is slated to return for his fifth and final season.

6’3” Casey Fox, son of legendary 1970’s SMU Huskies guard Mickey Fox, has decided to transfer back home to Halifax after a pair of strong seasons with Acadia Axemen. Fox has announced he will transfer to Dalhousie and after having to sit out the coming season will have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2011-12... Another prized transfer, 6’8” NCAA D1 transfer Scott Brittain, originally from Oakville, Ontario, is likely to play in the CIS next season. Brittain was a mainstay in the Canadian National team program and had a promising career at Boston University hampered by several concussions. Brittain, who has two season's of eligibility remaining, is looking to continue his education in the Master’s of Business Administration program. Barry Hayes from Hoopstars reports on his Twitter site that UBC and Western appear to be the favorites for his services.

A pair of CIS players were selected to represent Canada at the FIBA Americas Under 18 championships for men. 6'3" Phil Scrubb, who has committed to Carleton for this coming year, played in all 5 games while 6'8" Nic Langley, who will be entering his sophomore season at McGill, was also on the roster. The squad was coached by Alberta Golden Bears Head Coach Greg Francis and Laurentian Head Coach Shawn Swords was also on the staff. The group won the Bronze Medal at the event held recently in San Antonio, TX, defeating Argentina by 3 in overtime on a buzzer-beater by Kyle Wiltjer (son of ex-Victoria Vikes great Greg Wiltjer) after losing to the USA in the semi-finals. Scrubb had 4 points in 14 minutes in the Bronze medal game after scoring 10 points against Uruguay and 17 points against Puerto Rico in Canadian victories during the preliminary round.

Enjoy Canada Day.