By Woodard, Dale on November 1, 2019.
James McKinnon has gone from the court to a clipboard.
For Dave Waknuk, it’s Day 1 of Year 2.
With the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns men’s and women’s basketball teams heading into their Canada West opener against the Alberta Pandas and Golden Bears tonight at the 1st Choice Savings Centre, both bench bosses step into new titles.
McKinnon steps into a first-year interim coach role on the men’s team following the resignation of head coach Mike Hansen at the end of June.
“It’s exciting for a young coach to get a chance to run a university program, especially one as talented as the Pronghorns,” said McKinnon, who joined the Pronghorns last season as a full-time assistant coach. “It’s a little nerve-wracking as well. I’ve only been in the job 10 weeks, so it’s been a huge learning curve in that regard. I was playing 12 months ago on the court, for me, transitioning into coaching so quickly to being head coach of a program has been a whirlwind 15 months right now.
“The hardest thing is stepping off the court and not being able to play anymore.”
“I still love playing the game and whenever I get an opportunity to do so, to step onto the sideline and use my voice in a different aspect educate and teach these guys on how they should be playing and hopefully they do the right things.”
On the women’s team, Waknuk sheds his interim title and becomes the Pronghorns 12th head coach in program history, taking over for Dave Adams.
After leading the Horns to a highly-successful 12-8 season last year, Waknuk steps into a familiar setting.
“It’s really exciting. It’s a weird start, though,” he said. “It’s starting, yet I’ve been here for a while. It’s kind of like Day 1 in Year 2. I’m excited for the fact that I’m familiar with this program and I’ve been a part of it for so long. The transition has been easy and everybody here has been so supportive and made it a lot easier. It feels nice to switch the title, but I think the job and the objective is still the same as when I took over last October. It’s still trying to get us to play our best basketball. So that doesn’t change, but obviously the change in title and position is a good one for me.”
As he heads into his first season at the helm, McKinnon looks to add a new wrinkle to the high-tempo game that has become known around the area.
“I’m a defence of guy and in southern Alberta that’s almost nonexistent,” said McKinnon. “I try to put my stamp on the defensive end of the floor. We have seven returning guys and they’re all very familiar with the southern Alberta run-and-gun style. Mike Hansen did an exceptional job over the previous six years installing that, so I’m never going to stop them on the offensive end. I’m just going to try and help them on the defensive end, get a couple more stops and hopefully some easy transition points.”
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