Article: Michael Chmielewski – Op-Ed Editor
Hillis and Burns part ways from Cougars
James Hillis, who coached the Cougars men’s basketball team for almost two decades, has stepped down.
The news that the coach with the most wins in U of R history had resigned came as a surprise to many in the athletics community, but Dick White, the Director of Athletics at the U of R, is hard at work looking for someone to fill Hillis’ shoes.
White has posted the position nationally with the hopes that top candidates will apply, even if it means not necessarily hiring from within the team.
“The timing surprised me,” White explained. “But I know that the last couple of years have been difficult for coach Hillis on a professional and personal level.”
White hopes that the new coach will have “the ability to re-build the competitive profile and identity of the team,” and of course, that the new coach will be able to spur the team to the playoffs.
As the Carillon reported previously this year, and in an unofficial Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) report, there is a huge gender disparity in coaching positions across institutions under the CIS.
When asked if a woman was considered for the position, White said “we did not have any women applicants,” He added that, “if a woman had the experience and qualifications, her application would be considered regardless of gender.”
For fifth year player and combination guard and forward Addison Docherty, he has his own ideas about what makes a good head coach.
“Passionate, enthusiastic, and realistic,” he said. “I want to see their burning desires for program improvement just as much as the players do, but understanding that turning around this program is not going to happen overnight.
“The job will take a large amount of dedication and perseverance,” he added. “The coach needs to have immense knowledge of the game and should understand how to pass on that knowledge adequately to his/her players.”
White hopes to have selected a coach by June 15th.
This was the first of two shocks for the squad in a relatively short period. Cougars power forward Connor Burns has decided to transfer to the University of Saskatchewan for the last year of his program.
In the 2012-13 season, the Cougars had a 7-15 record, while the University of Saskatchewan Huskies were 17-8.
While the difference in records was likely a strong factor of Burns ultimate decision to switch programs, he also admitted that Hillis’ resignation came as a big surprise and spurred his thought about a possible transfer.
“[Hillis’ resignation] was a shock to me personally and had me questioning what was to come for the team and how it would affect myself,” he said. “James’ resignation definitely had an effect on my decision to switch universities. I needed to place myself in a position where I would have the best chance to fulfill my potential as a basketball player.”
As to whether or not the resignation was a positive or negative, Burns is still on the fence.
“I don’t think Hillis’ resignation from the team is neither a positive or negative,” Burns said. “It’s never a happy thing for a head coach to leave a team, especially one that has given so many years to the school and to the program.”
Even though Burns left the Cougars’ program to explore his own potential and aspirations, he expressed confidence in the U of R men’s team for the future.
“I hope the team finds whatever they need to accomplish all the goals they set out for themselves,” he said. “There are some serious competitors on the team and I know that with the right direction they will grow together as a strong team.”