As an elite player for more than a decade, Pete Guarasci displayed a deep passion for basketball.
Not much has changed since the 38-year-old former pro and Canadian Olympian has turned his attention to coaching.
Guarasci hopes his experience, passion and respect for the game will make for a positive environment in his new role as head coach of the UBC Okanagan men’s basketball squad.
“It wasn’t that long ago that I realized just how much I love coaching,” said Guarasci, who played 12 seasons of pro basketball in Europe.
“Just going through the season and being able to help my players with the ups and downs of basketball and life, being that mentor, that’s what I really enjoy about coaching.
“If I can help these student athletes have a positive experience, not just athletically,” Guarasci continued, “but getting a degree, and contributing in the community, then that’s what’s important.”
This will be Guarasci’s second tour of duty with the Heat, having served as an assistant to Darren Semeniuk for the 2009-10 BCCAA season.
In 2010-11, Guarasci assisted Greg Francis at the University of Alberta, then this past season took on his first head coaching job with Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton.
When Semeniuk decided to step aside this spring after seven seasons on the job at UBCO, the Heat athletic department viewed the 6-foot-9 Guarasci as the logical replacement.
For starters, Guarasci has previous experience with the Heat program. He also has plenty of local knowledge having lived in Kelowna with his wife since 2004.
Most importantly, the ex-Simon Fraser Clansman has extensive playing experience at a high level, and has shown a strong ability to relate to his players.
“Pete will bring his experience as a player, and this will definitely be a strength that separates him from several of the other CIS coaches,” said Darren Semeniuk. “Pete has truly been a student of the game for the last 12 to 15 years, and he is a bright enough individual to have the ability to pass along this knowledge to younger players. He is an excellent communicator and a natural coach who is focused on the development of his players.”
While still relatively inexperienced in a head coaching capacity Guarasci will get some help with the transition from Semeniuk who will remain on with the program until August.
The two teamed up last weekend at UBCO to run an I.D. camp, an opportunity to look at 24 prospective players for next year’s Canada West squad.
With the inaugural year of CIS competition under their belts, Guarasci hopes the Heat can continue to build on what Semeniuk and his previous assistants have started.
As far as expectations in his rookie season with the Heat are concerned, Guarasci has no plans to be focused on wins and losses.
“My first year with these athletes will be to see how competitive they’re going to be, and to go from there,” said Guarasci. “I don’t like to have specific expectations, I only put pressure on players to keep improving, and nothing else.
“You can’t get fixed on numbers or expectations, or you lose track of what you’re trying to accomplish. Winning is the byproduct of all the work you put into it. We want to try and create a strong culture.”
Adding to the challenge of Guarasci’s rookie season will be the fact that the Heat may have just five returning players in 2012-13.
Still, the head coach like his core group of veterans, led by guard and leading scorer Yassine Ghomari. Guarasci is also high on the potential of 6-foot-8 post Julian Asselstine, and wing Ryan Fahandeg, a Kelowna product and former UBCO player who is returning to the program after a two-year absence.
Guarasci will make his official Canada West head coaching debut Nov. 2 when the Heat visits the Victoria Vikes.