Craddock to U of A a no-brainer

- June 5th, 2012

When the University of Alberta made it official some Tuesday morning that Barnaby Craddock would become the school’s newest head men’s basketball coach it became a match that makes complete sense for both parties.

It is, as these things go in Canada, as natural a fusion as you could conceive.

The U of A made it official on Tuesday, announcing the hiring of Craddock a day after The Feed reported that he was leaving Fraser Valley for Edmonton.

On one hand you have a school with one of the premier athletic departments in all of Canada, and coaching its men’s team would have to be considered one of the top five basketball jobs in the CIS.

On the other hand, you have a coach who is closer to the start of his career than the end and one who has had success at both of his previous stops in a career that is less than a decade old.

When Craddock left the Brandon Bobcats after the 2007-08 season, it was to take a job closer to his Vancouver roots — a combination of homecoming, a new challenge and some frustration with the dynamics of employment at BU. He was leaving with his stock at its highest point, just months removed from having taken the Bobcats to the national final, where they lost a heartbreaker to the juggernaut Carleton Ravens.

He was taking over a program at Fraser Valley still in its infancy, and wading into the harsh waters of B.C. that already included strong programs at UBC, Victoria and Trinity Western. In five seasons in Abbotsford, Craddock compiled a record five games below .500, a mark that certainly wouldn’t scream excellence to a passive observer. But to gain a foothold of any sort in B.C., to battle in season and out with the already established programs of that province, and to turn a program that was a college team less than a decade ago into a national-tournament attendee, is most certainly of merit.

B.C. provides a university basketball coach one of the most saturated battlegrounds in the recruiting game in Canada. You factor in six Canada West schools, another one (Northern British Columbia) on the way, plus nine BCCAA schools, not to mention the ever-present NCAA draw and you quickly see how many folks are in the fight for a finite resource. Craddock, however, recruited well in the province, specifically in UFV’s backyard, and his landing of Yale Secondary star Joel Friesen a few years back was the big get a program needs to start turning things in the right direction.

WHAT’S NEXT

In Edmonton, Craddock will have more cache, more resources, less (in-region) competition and he steps into a glorious position with a team that just made the national final and returns almost everyone of note from that roster. Things are teed up nicely for him.

For Alberta, it filled a gaping hole without missing a beat. Suddenly having to hire a new coach is an unenviable off-season task, but no one can argue that the U of A has taken a step back in any way. Yes, there will be adjustments to a new regime, but those growing pains are minor when weighed against the big picture.

Now you look at Fraser Valley and the picture isn’t quite as rosy. Yes, the Cascades stand to return all but one of their players who went to the tournament in March, but the timing of Craddock’s departure makes UFV’s administrative job difficult. It now has to get the ball rolling — quickly — on opening the job nationally, then go through the interviewing and hiring process, unless the school decides to go with an interim option for a year before opening the job officially in 2013. Regardless, it is still late in June or into July (probably) by the time this gets settled and that leaves current players, not to mention recruits, in limbo. Having to hire a new coach late in the off-season is never an enviable task.

WHO’S OUT THERE

Craddock was one of three shortlisted for the Alberta position, along with Red Deer College’s Clayton Pottinger and Mount Royal’s Marc Dobell, according to sources. Both Pottinger and Dobell have been active over the years in trying to land CIS gigs — they both have been considered for separate jobs at BU in the past — and perhaps an opportunity at UFV will intrigue one or both of them. Dobell’s MRU program will make the jump to CIS, so perhaps it’s less enticing for him, but Pottinger has yet to coach in the CIS and a step from the CCAA to Fraser Valley is by no means an outrageous suggestion.

Another guess could be Fatih Akser currently an assistant to Roy Rana at Ryerson. Akser has compiled a strong resume of coaching at various levels, including video coordinator in the national program, and was recently shortlisted and brought in for an interview for the Brandon women’s job that went to Novell Thomas. (You can read more about Akser in my blog post that revealed those three BU candidates).  To be clear, I have no information that tells me any of these gentlemen will make a run at the Fraser Valley job, but until I scour a bit more and find some names, they are some guesses to be pondered.

Regardless, for Fraser Valley, which is still without a full-time athletics director, things are about to get difficult and UFV simply doesn’t pull the same weight on the free-agent coaching market that Alberta would.

CREATING A GAP

And that highlights the tiering that is becoming more pronounced in the CIS as the years go on and the line between haves and have-nots is becoming more defined. There are coaches in Canada making six-figure salaries; there are programs able to pay assistant coaches; there are school’s willing and able to sink millions into their facilities, marquee programs and staff salaries.

Alberta knows it can attract an A-level candidate and Craddock has put himself into that discussion. In the coaching hierarchy of the CIS, there are a handful who are at a level where only a few precious particular jobs could lure them from their current situation. They can cherry-pick, to a certain extent. With two nationals appearances with two programs, a national coach of the year and a starting-from-scratch success story on his resume, Craddock has elevated himself into that elite territory.

Not just any coach was going to land a coveted gig like Alberta; and not just any program could lure Craddock away.

—feed—

Twitter: @LarkinsWSun

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