The University of Alberta’s busy summer of athletics personnel changes may have finally come to an end with the hiring of Barnaby Craddock to the University of Alberta Golden Bears basketball team.
Last season, Craddock led the University of Fraser Valley Cascades to the Canada West championship game where they lost by one point to the U of A, followed by a fourth-place finish at the national championships. Craddock now joins a team that went even further, finishing as runners-up at the national championships under former head coach Greg Francis, who left to coach at the University of Waterloo this fall.
There’s pressure on Craddock to maintain the level of success established by Francis and his predecessor, legendary coach Don Horwood, but Craddock is confident that the style of play he likes his teams to use will fit in with the Golden Bears.
“(Francis) did a great job for those three years and kept the program running at the same level with the high expectations that Horwood had for the program previously,” Craddock said. “My personal coaching style is a fast-paced uptempo game, a very international flavour: spread the floor, attack and play some basketball that’s fun for the players and the fans.”
In hiring Craddock, the U of A took advantage of finding a coach from within their own conference who comes in with knowledge of how the current Golden Bears play. Craddock, like Francis, also brings experience as a former student-athlete, with both a CIS and professional career in Europe.
“I have the ability to see the game as a student athlete, to understand the balance of academics that the young men in our program have to go through,” Craddock said. “A massive part of our job is to help these guys graduate and gain their university degree, as well as helping them become the best athletes they can on the court.”
However, this isn’t exactly the same team that defeated the Cascades in the conference championships. Former CanWest first team all-star Daniel Ferguson, whose 25 points in the championship game helped defeat the Cascades, has now graduated and moved on to play basketball in Switzerland.
However, the loss of top players to graduation is just part of the game in CIS and doesn’t surprise or worry Craddock, a veteran of coaching university basketball with over a decade of experience under his belt.
“Daniel Ferguson was a huge part of what (the team) did. He was their point guard, and their leading scorer, and a large part of their offence,” Craddock said. “We’re going to be looking at how to replace his scoring, and find someone to fill in at that point guard position.”
Along with the experience that Craddock will bring to his new coaching position, he also boasts an impressive track record that includes seven seasons as a head coach in CIS, plus a CIS coach of the year award in 2007. Qualities that spurred Craddock to bring this significant experience to the U of A include the university’s significant facilities, with the Go Community Centre opening in the fall as the new home for the U of A’s basketball teams. Ian Reade’s new “Alberta Model,” and the educational opportunities it will provide for U of A students as well as for the development of its coaches and athletes is another unique quality that influenced Craddock’s decision to come to the U of A.
“We’re trying to integrate with the Phys-Ed department to ... have a partnership with the sport psych, with athletic therapy, with the strength and conditioning. Just pulling all these resources together, that’s the sort of cutting edge approach of how they’re going about it at the University of Alberta,” Craddock said.
“With our assistant coaches, we’re able to help a couple of the Masters of Coaches students be part of our coaching staff. We’re trying to help them develop into future coaches in the CIS ranks, so there’s that type of progressive thinking where we’re really trying to help the next generation of coaches.
That goes for all aspects, we’re doing that athletic therapy and strength and conditioning coaches. Obviously there’s benefits to our program as we get these young enthusiastic, knowledgeable individuals put in the work to help our program at the same time.”
With the new opportunities the U of A can offer Craddock and his new team, he’s focused on his future with the Golden Bears and pursuing his first conference and national championships. Now joining an athletics program where success is often expected, Craddock’s move to the U of A was made to be a part of a program that consistently pursues excellence
“I’m looking for a work environment that wants to pursue championships and excellence, and I think that’s what the University of Alberta Golden Bears athletic department is about,” Craddock said. “They’re leaders in Canada and internationally in athletics.”
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