Bobby Mitchell (left) and Ken Olynyk are the new coaches for the UBC Okanagan Heat women’s and men’s basketball teams respectively. Photo: Contributed by UBCO

UBCO fires basketball coaches

UBCO saying little about Heat coaching changes

UBC Okanagan athletic director has wasted little time in making a major impact on the university sports program by firing the Heat men’s and women’s basketball team coaches this week.

After being hired in April, Tom Huisman has elected to relieve Claire Meadows (women) and Pete Guarasci (men) of their coaching duties, but the university is saying little more about the moves.

Long-time assistant Bobby Mitchell and former University of Lethbridge and University of Toronto head coach Ken Olynyk have been named the interim coaches for the UBC Okanagan Heat basketball teams for the 2018-19 season, effective immediately.

Mitchell will helm the Heat women’s team as the interim head coach after holding the lead assistant job for the past three seasons and an assistant at UBCO since 2013.

Olynyk, recently retired athletic director at Thompson Rivers University and the father of the NBA’s Miami Heat forward Kelly Olynyk, will return to a familiar coaching role as he assumes the interim head coaching position for the men’s basketball team.

Nathan Skolski, UBCO spokesman, told the Capital News due to privacy reasons, the university was unable to comment any further on the coaching changes.

Contacted by the Capital News, Guarasci said he was unable to comment on his firing.

“I have some feelings about what has happened but unfortunately I can’t comment on anything right now,” Guarasci said.

Looking forward, he said he remains “definitely obsessed” with the sport of basketball and hopes to continue coaching on some level.

Last season, the Heat women hoops squad was winless, 0-20, while the men finished with a 2-18 record.

Mitchell began his coaching career in 2003 at Vernon Secondary School where he coached the senior girls’ team to nine consecutive AA Provincial Championship appearances and multiple Okanagan Valley Championships.

Mitchell has been the program coordinator for the all Junior Heat programs for girls and women since 2015.

Olynyk, originally from Revelstoke, starred in volleyball and basketball as a high school student athlete, before studying at Simon Fraser where he played four years of college basketball. He then played a fifth in Sudbury at Laurentian University under the tutelage of one of Canada’s most successful coaches, Ken Shields.

After Laurentian, Olynyk spent 10 years through the 1980s coaching at Lethbridge, and then over the next 14 seasons he served as the head coach of the University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues.

In-between, he coached nationally in international competitions including the Canadian junior men’s national basketball team from 1983 to 1996. In Toronto, Olynyk also spent one season in the NBA (2002-03) as an observer coach with the Toronto Raptors and head coach Lenny Wilkens.

He is the chair and organizer for the Canada Basketball U15 and U17 national championships that are scheduled for Kamloops this Aug. 6 to 11.

The Heat’s home opener is on Friday, Nov. 2, against the Brandon Bobcats.

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