July 16th, 2019

Catholic Central’s Cal O’Brien enshrined in Alberta High School Sports Hall of Fame

By Submitted Article on May 15, 2019.

This week’s ‘High School Notebook’ column by Dave Wells

For me, Catholic Central High School and Cal O’Brien are virtually synonymous.

Really, when I think of one, it’s almost automatic to think of the other.

And there’s a very good reason for that. Many good reasons actually.

If you added up all the days Cal has spent in Lethbridge’s Roman Catholic schools I expect the number would total well over half of his now seven-decade-plus life. Literally, counting weekends and holidays.

Student, athlete, teacher, coach, councillor (on oh so many levels), librarian, administrator – heck, even as a frequent substitute teacher over the past decade – Cal has been an institution in the institution. The CCH Campus East gym is now duly formally noted as “Cal’s Court”, although a wag could very plausibly argue he’s held court with an equal measure of success in staff room debates.

Last week, Cal was inducted into the Alberta Schools Athletic Association’s Alberta High School Sports Hall of Fame. Congratulations, Cal.

The lovely program pointed to Cal’s many athletic contributions, including many basketball achievements. Copious indeed.

One not included which I know makes Cal proud is that about 30 of his former Catholic Central girls’ basketball players went on to play at the post-secondary level. Wonderful.

Cal himself excelled on the post-secondary coaching scene. Concurrent to his Catholic Central tenure, Cal served as interim head coach of the University of Lethbridge women’s and men’s basketball teams for one season apiece. I firmly believe Cal’s extended term on the women’s bench (over a decade as an assistant coach, in addition to his interim HC campaign) was the biggest consistent factor in a never before or since approached run in the national rankings.

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One of Cal’s perhaps more questionable decisions was to instigate recruiting me as Southern Alberta Interscholastic Administrative Council Activities Co-ordinator back in 2001. I had previously worked in the area high school sports admin field as Lethbridge School District No. 51 sports organizer for 4-1/2 years, starting in January 1984.

Last week I informed SAIAC I had made the firm decision not to put my name forward at their upcoming Annual General Meeting as a candidate (I never have had a formal contract) to return in 2019-20.

I am an unrestricted free agent!

Is this “retirement” overall? Well, my absolute priority is travel. But if I can get a work gig that includes, or at least accomodates, travel that would certainly be something I’d seriously consider – especially if basketball (I do rather like the sport, especially evaluating talent) was part of the picture.

I’ll thank SAIAC and my gracious 18-year SAIAC office host Catholic Central further here in weeks to come.

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After this week local high school baseball, slopitch, rugby and track and field have a series of season-ending events I’ll advance in this space.

WELLSIE’S WORLD – Soon after I moved to Lethbridge as a five-year-old my mom signed me up at the YMCA, which at that time was situated on 4 Avenue, South, across from the Yates, beside Southminster United Church, a very important building in my youth. Actually, it was so long ago the Yates had yet to be constructed. At any rate, that Y was a truly wonderful venue for an elementary school kid with dreams (and don’t all elementary school kids have dreams?) This past Sunday morning I took a took a tour of the new westside Cor Van Raay YMCA, newest section of the massive ATB Centre. To me, there is no doubt it provides an outstanding environment for kids of all ages. Instead of trying to detail all the features here I strongly suggest those with any measure of interest check the place out in person. Guides are provided. From what I can gather it’s the third-biggest YMCA in North America. Wow!… Very happy to see LCI and U of L grad Zac Overwater playing for Edmonton in the new spring and summer pro Canadian Elite Basketball League, which tipped last week. Winston Churchill grad Kenny Otieno, who has previously played for pay overseas and in a Canadian winter pro hoops circuit, is also on the Edmonton roster…With the Toronto Raptors competing for the NBA title while all Canadian NHL franchises are sidelined, basketball has been afforded its first opportunity to truly dominate the national sporting stage. As for the Eastern Conference finals there is a rather talented fellow named Giannis Antetokounmpo ready for battle. The “Greek Freak” really is everything positive that his nickname could imply, except for a yet-to-be-developed fully jump shot from three-point range. As a sub-plot consider Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer, then looking for another gig after leaving the Atlanta sideline general post, was widely rumoured to have been top choice to take on Toronto’s bench boss duties last spring, but signed the dotted line with Milwaukee instead, presumably largely because of the Freak’s, well, freakishness.

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