Darren Graham was a bit surprised when he discovered the RDC Kings basketball coaching position was open.
“I was,” he said. “Clayton (Pottinger) has a great track record and is well known around basketball circles so I was surprised he was moving on.”
At the same time he felt it was a perfect fit as he looks to take another step in his coaching career.
“Considering I played there and wanted to push myself to be better with my development as a coach I felt I’d throw my hat in.”
The RDC selection committee felt he was a perfect fit as well.
“A lot of good things happened in the last three weeks,” added Graham. “My family and I decided to go for this and were accepted. I got a teaching job at Notre Dame (High School), we sold our house in Edmonton and my kids were on a wait list at a school and are now enrolled.”
Darren was born and raised just north of Stony Plain and played two seasons (1996-98) with the Kings after graduating high school.
“John Johnston recruited me and Ryan Atkins and myself came down and played the two years. It was a great experience. I learned a lot as a man and as an athlete.”
Graham played a strong role in the Kings first ACAC championship in 1998.
He then attended and played for Concordia University in Edmonton receiving a science degree. He received his education degree at the University of Alberta and has been teaching and coaching at Millwoods Christian School the past 11 years.
“I coached at all levels and high school for the last six,” he explained.
As well he joined Reagan Wood at Concordia as an assistant coach with the men’s basketball program and has been there the last four seasons.
He’s also has done some work with the NCCP program and done several courses.
Putting his high school experience with his time with Concordia and the NCCP together and the 41-year-old Graham felt it was time to add another chapter to his coaching career.
“It’s something I’ve been working toward,” he said. “Between the experience of coaching, being an assistant in the ACAC and Reagn’s mentorship it prepared me for the challenge of being head coach at Red Deer College.”
Darren has been in contact with the majority of his returning players and held a couple of scrimmages.
”Clay did a fantastic job of leaving the tool shed well equipped,” he said. “We have a veteran group returning and could have three or four fifth-year players.”
Heading the group is fifth-year wing and ACAC scoring champion Spencer Klassen.
“He’s a great young man and having him around makes my transition easier.”
At times it’s tougher to get the import players to remain with a coaching change. Darren doesn’t see that.
”From what I see we’ll be fine between the guys returning and a transfer.”
But Darren feels he needs “to add a couple pieces to fill out his roster in a next few weeks.”
Being around Wood at Concordia, which has finished third and second the last two seasons in the ACAC, has given Graham exposure to recruiting.
“Reagn is tapped into the basketball community and well connected, so what I’ve learned from him will definitely help. What is important is to build relationships and those relationships will bear fruit.
“Recruiting isn’t easy but Red Deer is a great community and the new facility is a magnet to athletes. As well the success Clay brought to the program will draw as well.”
From what he’s saw so far is that the players are “humble and hungry.
“They’re a bit humble because they felt they didn’t have as much success the last couple of seasons they wanted and hungry to have that success.”
Graham is also looking forward to coaching a program that’s front and centre in the community.
“In the big city (like Edmonton) the program gets lost while in Red Deer it;’s something to rally around. It’s part of the community.”
Graham and his wife Rebecca and four children — a boy nine and girls 11, 6 and 4 — will move to Red Deer once they find a house.
All four children are into sports.
‘My son is big into hockey and plays lacrosse while my oldest daughter is into gymnastics and cheer while my six-year-old just finished soccer and my youngest is into swimming and gymnastics so they’ll all active,” Darren said.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com