Local Sports: Red Deer College has one of the best athletic programs

RDC has one of the most recognized athletic programs, in not only the province, but nationally.

It grew to this status by having good people in place from the Athletic Director to trainers. Of course one of the main ingredients is having outstanding coaches.

Making sure that level of coaching continues with the basketball programs is something front and centre for AD Diane St-Denis.

Not only did Queens head coach Ken King leave as he looks to take his career in a new direction, but Kings head coach Clayton Pottinger was swept away by UBC Okanagan.

St-Denis knows the level of coach needed to fill their shoes.

“Losing good people is always tough, now the challenge is to hire good people to fill those spots,” she said. “And we did lose something with both of them. It’s sad in a way, but at the same time we have to push that aside and move forward.”

Losing both coaches was a bit of a surprise, especially when it came to Pottinger. But at the same time St-Denis knew that was always a risk.

“When you have good people there’s always the risk of losing them,” she said. “It’s mixed emotions as you hate to see him (Pottinger) go but at the same time it’s a feather in our cap as they look to us for their next hire.”

The women’s position was posted on Wednesday and the men’s shortly. Diane hopes to have the positions filled by the middle of May, but she won’t rush into making a decision, just to fill the position.

“With the number of athletes returning there seems to be a sense of urgency to do it as quickly as possibly, but to get it right.

“We have to set aside enough time to do the process, making sure part of the process is being able to cast a wide net to get as many qualified people to apply as we can. It would be a disservice to our student-athletes if we weren’t trying to get the best person to come to fill the shoes (of the two leaving).”

The process will be similar for both coaches, but at the same time the coaches will be different.

“We’re looking at two very different coaches. It’s the same sport, but coaching men and women is different, so we’ll be looking for two different types of coaches,” said St-Denis.

And both coaches will fill a slightly different role than King and Pottinger as they won’t necessarily be at the college as RDC will become Red Deer University in the near future.

“We’ll have term-certain contracts as we’ll be reviewing the faculty-coach model,” Diane explained. “We don’t want to bring someone in under false pretenses. We want to be fair to the incoming candidates and fair to the program. We want to set ourselves and the coaches up for success and the term-certain contracts provide that ability for us.”

Moving to university status means there will be more PhD requirements and “not every coach is a PhD”.

No one can say where the applications will come from or what profession candidates will be in, or what they’re looking to get into.

One thing is certain the selection committee will look for the right person, one who knows how to work with the athletes on and off the floor and with the personality and knowledge to recruit and with contacts.

“Gone are the days when a coach just shows up with a whistle,” said St-Denis. “Now there’s so much more and it all starts with recruiting.

“Student-athletes are looking at the institution and what they can get out of it as well as looking at the leadership of the coach. They’re looking for someone with credibility.”

Someone like Pottinger and King, who not only knew how to handle their players, but were willing to build the sport in the community, such as starting the Central Alberta Basketball Club.

“This is the third season of the Club and you can see how much talent is out there and you’ll continue to see more coming into our program,” said St-Denis.

The athletes and the RDC program meant a lot to both Pottinger and King and they both said it’s hard to walk away. They both have committed to help in the transition and have talked with their players about next season. Pottinger will also run an ID camp April 20.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame member who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca

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