Former W.J. Mouat and UFV coach Trevor Pridie has left his job as video coordinator with Raptors 905 to fill the vacant head coaching chair at Trinity Western. (Photo by Scott Stewart property of Trinity Western athletics 2019. All Rights Reserved)
Feature University Men's Basketball

A Sunday read: Why the toughest re-build in Canadian university hoops lured BC’s Trevor Pridie from Raptors 905 back home to Trinity Western

LANGLEY — A lot has happened over the past few seasons in the coaching life of Trevor Pridie.

In fact after he was officially announced Friday as the new head coach of Trinity Western Spartans men’s basketball, all you needed to do was take a quick scan of the most recent accomplishments on his coaching resume to know that the kid who had started out cutting his teeth taking on just about every local coaching opportunity he could find, had come back home as a plugged-in member of Canada’s national coaching fraternity.

“When the announcement was made today, about 50 people called me with leads on players,” chuckled Pridie, 32, who after much thought, decided to leave his job as video coordinator of Raptors 905, the Toronto Raptors’ G-League affiliate, to take on the biggest re-build in all U Sports men’s hoops.

“I am getting a lot of messages,” he continued, “and a lot of them are international. With my time in the NBA, I was able to make a lot more connections.”

All of that is going to come in handy as Pridie attempts to put his mark on a program which as recently as 2011 lost to Carleton in the U Sports national title game under dynamic ex-coach Scott Allen, but last season fell to 0-20 under now former head coach Aaron Muhic.

Trinity Western has gone a combined 9-91 in Canada West regular season play over the past five campaigns.

“I mean, it’s a tall task but for me it’s exciting,” said Pridie, a 2005 graduate of Surrey’s tiny Regent Christian Academy who later played in the CCAA at crosstown Kwantlen Polytechnic before jumping right into coaching. “It’s something I can put my own stamp on and play my style as we try to build it. It’s going to be a process.”

Nothing could be more true than that last sentiment, yet if you study Pridie’s career trajectory, the last thing he’s done is sit back and just wait for things to happen.

While serving as both head coach and program director with the B.C. Bounce club from 2011-18, where he oversaw about 1,000 youth players,  he also served two seasons as the head coach of the senior boys Triple A program at Abbotsford’s W.J Mouat Secondary, and served a two-season stint as a U Sports assistant coach with the Fraser Valley Cascades.

Over the 2015-16 season, in fact, he worked at B.C. Bounce, UFV and W.J. Mouat simultaneously, coaching the latter as a No. 7 seed to the B.C. Final Four where the Hawks lost to the Tamanawis Wildcats.

Pridie even coached boys Under-14 and -15 teams for Basketball B.C. from 2011-14.

Trinity Western athletic director Jeff Gamache capped a near three-month coaching search by announcing Friday that Trevor Pridie would be the next boss of TWU men’s hoops. (Photo by Scott Stewart property of Trinity Western athletics 2019. All Rights Reserved)

In the end, his skills as a recruiter and an innovator, and his embrace of analytics made him the perfect choice for Spartans’ athletic director Jeff Gamache, whose job search lasted almost three full months.

Gamache especially appreciated his ability to recruit, a skill which he explained was a direct reflection of who his new coach was as a person.

“It’s the name of the game,” said Gamache. “Ninety per cent is recruiting and 10 per cent is everything else. Recruiting, to me, is all about being able to build relationships and he is incredible at that. He is such a genuine human being and he cares for all of his athletes.”

For Gamache, his words reflect direct experience.

Back in the 2015-16, while a principal at Abbotsford’s MEI, Gamache was at a basketball game to watch his son Kaden, now a volleyball player at Trinity Western, as they faced crosstown rival W.J. Mouat.

“They had a good team and a really young coach and we beat them that day, which surprised me because we had been struggling,” begins Gamache. “The caveat, however, is that their best player lost his cool and that coach took him out and sat him down for the rest of the game. I was impressed at the time how much more character over winning meant to that young coach.”

Over the course of his coaching search, Gamache realized that coach was Pridie.

There have been peaks, but mostly valleys over the 20-year U Sports (formerly CIS) basketball history at Trinity Western University, which joined Canada’s top circuit in time for the 1999-2000 campaign.

The first zenith, however, was reached not too soon after.

In 2002-03, when the UBC Thunderbirds were led by Kyle Russell, and the Simon Fraser Clan by Pasha Bains, the Spartans had their own hero in current UFV head coach Adam Friesen.

That season, the trio all averaged over 20 ppg for their respective teams and were the Canada West’s top three scorers.

Even better, the parity in the conference’s Pacific Division was spectacular with UBC (15-5), TWU (12-8) and SFU (10-10) achieving a post-season type atmosphere in all of their regular season meetings.

The rivalries continued to build over the next few seasons, and those Spartans, coached by Stan Peters and led by not only by Friesen, but Kelowna product Brian Banman and local Walnut Grove rebounding ace Logan Kitteringham, took on a personality all their own.

Their home games against UBC, SFU and Victoria, all played on campus at tiny Enarson Gymnasium, brought a shared level of frenzy and fan interest which has not been duplicated since amongst B.C.’s U Sports men’s basketball teams.

On Friday, as Pridie talked to the future of TWU men’s hoops, it was with those old days in mind, impressionable ones for him as a burgeoning teen basketball fan, which made him even more excited to pump life back into TWU men’s basketball.

“I 100-per cent remember those days,” says Pridie. “As a teen, my first exposure to university basketball was at Trinity Western. I can remember Stan Peters and Adam Friesen (the latter whom he would later coach under at UFV). I remember how exciting it was, and I never again saw anything locally with that level of buzz and excitement. It was a passionate brand of basketball.”

New Trinity Western men’s basketball coach Trevor Pridie (right), pictured at the 2016 Terry Fox Legal Beagle Invitational while he was the head coach of the W.J. Mouat Hawks, chats with guard Jass Singh. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2019. All Rights Reserved)

It was also one of the foundational pieces he took with him as he embarked first on his playing career, and very soon after, as he built a curriculum vitae so deep and varied, especially for one barely into his thirties.

Networking with the Raptors’ brass during their annual Vancouver-area training camp stops led to some valuable connections and an eventual posting with Raptors 905 under its head coach, former UBC Thunderbirds’ player Jama Mahlalela.

“I knew I loved the game and I wanted to be around it as long as I could,” said Pridie. “If things didn’t work out, I was going to teach and coach, and as I went to UFV to coach, the passion kept growing. I started to strive and thrive. Now, I am so thankful for my year in the NBA world and for all of the people I met and the connections I made.”

Pridie speaks of Mahlalela as the picture of positivity and a treasured sounding board who always had time for his fellow countryman.

“If I didn’t spend a year under him, I don’t know if I could have done this,” Pridie says of being able to secure his new U Sports posting. “I was the video coordinator, but I also helped run analytics, I got to work in player development, and I was able to get on the floor with the players. The confidence he gave me in how to build a program was incredible. I thought I was a solid leader, but watching him, I saw leadership at a new level.”

For his part, Gamache, who poured heart and soul into his latest hire, comes by his love of hoops honestly.

He played his high school basketball for Campbell River’s Carihi Tyees, where one of his teammates was former Vikes’ great and Canadian Olympian Eric Hinrichsen. During those days, Gamache even had occasion to defend a dynamic guard from St. Michaels University School in nearby Victoria named Steve Nash.

That’s why he admitted Friday that his basketball heart had felt its share of pain over the recently completed 0-20 season.

“It was massively hurtful, especially because all of our other teams were so successful,” he begins. “At some point last season, every team except men’s basketball was ranked in the (national) Top 10. It was tough to even go to the (B.C.) high school championships knowing we are (located) in such a vibrant basketball community.”

Yet it’s also why that on Friday, he felt like he was truly enhancing a varsity athletics department whose coaching collective is as decorated as any in the nation.

“He spent time working in a world-class organization,” begins Gamache of Pridie’s time with the Raptors. “It could even have been in the most menial of jobs, but if it’s world class, you learn, by osmosis or otherwise, the most valuable of lessons.”

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