I asked Peter Benoite in his office recently how he would rate his six years as coach of Memorial Sea-Hawks men’s basketball team.
There was a brief hesitation.
“Whoa, that’s a tough question,” he replied. “It depends what angle you go at it, right?”
As good as your players?
“Yeah,” he replied with a laugh, “That’s the standard answer. I’ve worked hard to try and do what we need to do and I think I’ve done that.”
Of that there is no question.
But five out of six seasons of last-place finishes is still a cold, hard fact that can’t be ignored.
Benoite has a long history with Memorial University and remains basically a legend in the local basketball and as well liked as anyone in the provincial sports community.
During his five years as a player with the Sea-Hawks (1993-1998), he led Memorial to its best-ever record of 16-4 in the 1996-97 campaign.
He served as an assistant coach with both the MUN women’s team (1999-2000) and the men’s AUS entry (2005-2007).
Unfortunately, Benoite hasn’t yet been able to translate his on-court success to the coaching ranks.
Memorial finished 4-16 this season, the best record so far under Benoite’s tutelage, but hardly something to crow about.
Fact is, the Sea-Hawks have been bad for a long time.
Benoite inherited a team that finished last and winless in the Atlantic Universities conference and the last year MUN made playoffs was the 2005-06 season under coach Todd Aughey.
The MUN mentor and former Sea-Hawks star said it’s fair to say he’s “evolving” as a coach.
“Are the there things I would change in my approach now looking back on it? Yeah, there are things I’d do a little bit differently,” said Benoite.
“I’m learning more...learning what I need to give more rope and when I need to rein in more. I think I’m doing a better job of trusting my players more. That being said, I feel the players are earning that trust.
“The big difference right now is that I feel I have a group of players who buy into what we want to do, our team philosophy. I’m not sure if we always had that.”
See CURCIC, page C2
Anyone who watched the Sea-Hawks play this season will tell you there’s talent on the squad and it appears to becoming together, if every so slowly.
You can’t deny the skill level of players such as second-team AUS all-star Vasilije Curcic and Davion Parnsalu who made the all-rookie team. Then there’s the dependable Caleb Gould and the developing Alpha Kisusi.
There is a genuine base of talent that could put it all together within two years.
It will probably mean finding a few more top-notch recruits from outside of the province as the local high school leagues haven’t proven to be much of a feeder system for the Sea-Hawks.
If the Sea-Hawks can somehow find a consistent outside shooter, Memorial could be the league’s surprise team in a year or two.
And I think, should that happens, the general concensus will be: It’s about time!
The loyal MUN supporters deserve a winning team sometime before the end of this decade.
Here are the Memorial Sea-Hawks varsity teams records and their final grade based on regular season:
Men’s basketball: (4-16) D+
Women’s basketball: (9-11) B-
Women’s volleyball: (6-10) C
Men’s volleyball: (0-17) F
Men’s soccer: (2-10-1) D
Women’s soccer: (5-4-4) B
PS: My predictions at the start of AUS basketball season: MUN men 4-16; MUN women 10-10.
Last weekend, the first annual Swilers junior high tag rugby competition was held at the Newfoundland and Labrador sports centre. Leary’s Brook, St. Paul’s, Macdonald Drive and St. John Bosco competed and, according to coach Morgan Lovell, the standard was pretty high.
“All 40 competitors enjoyed the event that, hopefully, promoted the game of rugby in the local schools,” said Lovell.
Mcdonald Drive came out winners, beating Leary’s Brook in the final.
Most kids in this province do not grow up playing rugby, but the sport is trying to educate the children at younger and younger ages. It seems to be paying off as we are producing some very talented young players these days.
The key to rugby’s survival was always introducing the game to kids before high school.
Most of our high schoolers have played hockey, soccer, baseball and softball by the time they reach high school. When high school rugby was first introduced at the high school level, the better athletes were a little resistant to trying a new sport because they didn’t know anything about the game and they didn’t want to look awkward.
Now rugby is being introduced at a very young age and into junior high so that the game isn’t foreign to high schoolers these days.