VANCOUVER,BC–Taking a look at the coaches sitting on the UBC’s bench during their 78-48 win over UBCO last Saturday, you’d see a variety of qualified men with experience stemming from the highest levels of basketball.
At the head of the bench, which like every gym nowadays is actually just a line of cushy folding chairs, sits Kevin Hanson, who had just won his 300th game as UBC’s head coach the night before.
Beside him sits Vern Knopp, a former All-Canadian at Douglas College in the early 90′s, in his 12th year as an assistant for the Thunderbirds.
Next to Knopp is Casey Archibald, a former All-Canadian for UBC, in his first year as a full-time assistant. After Archibald, it’s Jamie Oei and Dahman Boudraa, both of whom led Douglas College to a CCAA title in 2008, in their second and fourth years respectively.
But after those five regulars sat a man who had never been on a university basketball coaching staff, let alone a college coaching staff, and not even a varsity high-school bench.
If you asked the 888 people in attendance that night who the man was, you would have probably got an answer from the UBC coaches themselves, who most likely wouldn’t let a complete stranger onto their bench, even if his suit jacket was pressed and his pants were pleated.
Besides the Thunderbird bench bosses, you might have asked the wide-eyed kid in the first row of fans behind the bench, eagerly watching to see how his dad handles the pressures of a CIS coaching staff.
For one night, Denis Turenne was a member of the number-three ranked team in the country, and he enjoyed every minute of it.
“It was awesome,” said Turenne. “They were great in just accepting me being on the bench, and even asked for my input.”
Kevin Hanson echoed the same sentiment.
“Every once in a while we bring in a guest coach. We do a team retreat over to the Sunshine Coast [Denis' home] every year, and he brings the team over that he’s coaching and we do a little interactive thing with the guys, so I think it’s great for the community development. Denis has showed a lot of support for our program.”
Turenne is an assistant coach with his son’s grade-10 basketball team at Elphinstone Secondary in Gibsons, B.C., but after spending a night courtside at War Memorial Gymnasium, he doesn’t see much of a difference.
“Things don’t really change from grade eight to this level, I’m very surprised,” he said after the game. “The things that coaches are trying to get their kids to do are no different than at this level, it’s just that they’re better players. Like spacing and screening away and defensive pressure and help defence, and all of the stuff they were going through – really did surprise me. So then I felt comfortable and thought that it’s no different.”
I asked Hanson if Turenne looked nervous or intimidated during the game.
“Not at all, he couldn’t stop talking actually,” said Hanson. “I asked the coaches if they had anything to say, and he spoke up before our the other four. He’s got a good basketball mind and it was nice to have him on the bench. To have him supporting the guys like that, I think it’s important. We’re glad that he’s a part of our basketball family.”
Being thrust into the seemingly intimidating situation didn’t faze the 50-year-old father and owner of a concrete company, as he even offered some advice to the players before tip-off.
“I told them that I saw them come out flat last night and not to do it again this night, to come out with some intensity and to be patient with the ball,” said Turenne.
As Hanson collected his 301st victory and extended the Thunderbird’s current winning streak to eight straight, Turenne came out of the experience with something that most CIS coaches, if any at all, will ever attain.
An undefeated record.