Thursday, 14 April 2011
Much has happened since early March when the Carleton Ravens captured their seventh CIS crown in the past nine seasons in Halifax. The on-court story has already been told in several different forums. I wanted to share my once-again tremendous experience in Halifax and encourage those who haven't ever made the trip to consider doing so next season. From the organizing committee to the local coaches to the restaurant owners and everyone else, the hospitality and warmth with which the locals host this tournament is unique. AUS communications guru John Keefe did his usual thorough job with sharing information accurately and in a timely manner and reminded me again how relaxed life is on the East Coast with a great example of community honesty. While having lunch with Laurier Coach Peter Campbell and All-Canadian Kale Harrison at one of Halifax's famous establishments on Championship Sunday, I noticed that I didn't have my Blackberry with me but knew I likely left it somewhere in the Metro Center. In virtually any other city in the world, panic would have likely ensued followed by a mad rush cutting lunch early in order to track down the device. But in Halifax, the immediate thought was that somehow things would pan out properly - certainly no reason to interrupt a fine meal. About an hour later, I got to the press lounge where John had my device and was looking for it's owner - no worries. A small thing but an experience that I think epitomizes how life works in Halifax. Crowds were a bit disappointing after the first night but nonetheless given the entire experience Halifax remains a great place to have the Nationals and hopefully next season will not be the last Halifax-based Final 8 for very long. Also, I was flattered to be able to contribute to the first-round games that were webcast on Streaming Sports Network with Bill McLean who was very accomodating and it was a pleasure to participate. The Final 8 property has the potential to be a very strong property for the CIS... The OUA put together a nice initiative designed to bring more focus and profile to men's basketball with the revival of the Final Four concept, hosting semi-finals and a championship game at McMaster in Hamilton to crown the Wilson Cup champion and settle Ontario's two automatic berths to the Nationals. Friday night saw a near-capacity crowd treated to a pair of high-energy affairs that cast a very favorable light on OUA men's basketball. With games available live on the SCORE, crowds nonetheless were strong and in my opinion, this event laid the foundation for an event that if properly evolved can bring strong value to OUA sports. Congratulations to the organizing committee for an excellent first year and for McMaster which continued their fine tradition of hosting top quality events... Last off-season saw an unprecedented number of coaching changes in the CIS but expect this off-season to be much less active with coaching churn. Only two jobs are currently available, both in Ontario as Queen's Gaels and Brock Badgers are both in the middle of the process to select their Head Coaches going forward. Queen's interim coach Duncan Cowan, who has been on the Gaels staff for the past several years after playing for the Gaels about a decade ago appears to be the front runner to shed his interim label. According to sources, despite their being at least two former CIS coaches interested - including one with a long track record of championship pedigree - the three other final candidates besides Cowan included a CIS assistant with just 2 seasons of experience, a CIS women's coach and a Western Canada-based CIS assistant with a solid background. Expect the announcement that Cowan will be retained to be released shortly. In St. Catharines, the Brock athletic department is concurrently seeking to name a full-time Head Coach and bring on their newest Athletic Director. The Brock coaching job position has been posted but expect the new AD to be named prior to the interview process for the men's job to go on in earnest. Brock point guard legend Brad Rootes did a credible job in his interim season and one would expect several strong candidates to apply for the position also... We hope to have a more comprehensive Canada Basketball summer preview in the days ahead however CIS fans should be proud that three of our Head Coaches will lead Canada Basketball programs this summer and early autumn, beginning with Ryerson's Roy Rana, who returns to the organization for another summer this season as Head Coach of Canada's Cadet Team, one of eight teams that will compete in the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Men, taking place June 21-25 at the Domo de La Feria in Leon, Mexico. This tournament is the qualifier event for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship for Men with the top 3 teams from the 8 team event moving on to next summer's U17 worlds. According to FIBA Americas website current participating teams include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico and USA. Two more countries will come from the Central American and Caribbean Zone with the celebration of the Centrobasket U15 Championship this year. If the Centrobasket tournament is not played, FIBA Americas will announce the teams that will represent the zone. Teams are looking to move on to the FIBA U17 Worlds in Kuanas, Lithuania 29 June through 8 July 2012. Expect Rana to maintain his staff from last season's successful campaign with Manitoba Head Coach Kirby Schepp and Saskatchewan Huskies assistant coach Nathan Schellenberg as his assistants. Also, UBC's Kevin Hanson will head up Canada's men's team at the 26th FISU Summer Universiade in Shenzhen, China. The Games are scheduled for August 12 to 23, 2011 and it is likely that an all-CIS team will represent Canada with Hanson bringing on two other CIS coaches to his staff. Finally, Carleton's seven-time CIS championship Head Coach Dave Smart returns to Canada Basketball after a short absence while welcoming his first child to lead Canada's Pan-Am games contingent. The 2011 Pan American Games take place in Guadalajara, Mexico from October 14 to 30, 2011. Noteably, Canada will be the host of the next games in 2015 in Toronto. As well, expect Smart to have another pair of CIS coaches on his staff and Canada's Pan-Am roster also made up entirely of CIS players. This tournament takes place during the early portion of the CIS pre-season schedule in early October. Congratulations to all CIS coaches and officials who will work with Canada Basketball in the coming months.
Posted by Mark Wacyk at 17:26