Both UBC Okanagan basketball programs are bringing in experienced lead assistants to navigate the upcoming Canada West basketball season.
On the men’s side, interim head coach Ken Olynyk has brought in a former Atlantic University Sports coach of the year. Thom Gillespie has 14 years of U SPORTS head coaching experience, including twice earning an AUS coach of the year honors in 2001-02 and 2003-04 with the UNB Varsity Reds.
Most recently, Gillespie led the Cape Breton Capers. From 2009 until 2010, he was the head coach of the TRU WolfPack As an assistant, Gillespie has another five years at the U SPORTS level with the Victoria Vikes and the UNB Varsity Reds along with a year with the Dalhousie Tigers.
From 2012 to 2016, Gillespie was the supervisor and then manager of athletics, fitness and recreation at Olds College in Olds, Alberta. Gillespie is a level IV certified coach with a Masters Degree in Education.
Women’s head coach Bobby Mitchell looked no further than Vernon for his lead assistant coach. Lonny Mazurak replaced Mitchell as head coach role at Vernon Secondary when Mitchell left to assume the role of lead assistant at UBCO.
With over 25 years of experience, Mazurak brings an impressive resume to the role. He has spent 17 years as a head coach in the Vernon School District with most of the success at the helm of the Vernon Secondary Panthers. In his time on the bench with the Panthers, Mazurak has led VSS to seven Final Four appearances at the AA high school provincial championships, earning three medals in those trips (2 silver, 1 bronze).
Returning to the Heat coaching staff is Lisa Nickle, a UBC Sports Hall of Famer, who will be in her third season as an assistant coach for the women’s program.
Also joining Mitchell’s staff is a former player of his from Vernon, Diane Schuetze, who developed into a Canada West All-Star with the Thompson Rivers WolfPack.
UBC Okanagan Heat basketball assistant coaches play a key role in the delivery of the highly successful Junior Heat Club basketball program. These four assistants, under the tutelage of the two interim head coaches, will be instrumental in developing Okanagan Valley youth basketball players into success individuals on and off the court through the sport of basketball.
Gillespie will fit right in with the Junior Heat mandate with his high level of technical expertise and his personal philosophy centered on the student athlete and his belief in the “holistic development of the person and player.”
Gillespie adds, “It is essential that athletes develop skills and decision making ability to play any position on the court with confidence.”
All three coaches with the women’s program have extensive experience with the Junior Heat program. Mazurak, who has coached two years with an elite Junior Heat club team, also founded the Vernon Basketball Association (VBA) and coached the first VBA club team this spring.
Developing players in the Okanagan has been a passion for Mazurak for nearly two decades and his work with the Junior Heat in the past shows his passion for the development of the game.
“I thoroughly enjoy working with the younger players in the Junior Heat program,” explained Mazurak, “as we try to fuel their passion for the game and improve their skills while connecting the Heat program to the community. It’s a win-win situation for all.”
Not just passionate about developing players, Mazurak is also skilled, as the current Heat roster boasts a trio of his former players in Brianna Falk, Mackenzie Horst, and Jordan Korol.
Nickle has been the lead with the Junior Heat girls fall academy and has coached the U13 club team for the past three years. Schuetze coached a U17 Junior Heat club team this past spring.
For more info on the Junior Heat Basketball club go to goheat.ca/jrheatbasketball. There is still time to sign up for the boys and girls Junior Heat fall academy.