BURNABY — In its early days, St. Thomas More Collegiate’s Chancellor Invitational enjoyed the distinct blessing of being run by a basketball visionary.
From his very start as boys varsity head coach in 1970, Rich Goulet knew just what the Burnaby school’s annual tournament needed to represent to both student-athletes and coaches, and he worked tirelessly to make it a reality.
From the custom, hand-painted posters he had made, to a legendary coaches banquet, to a four-day, 16-team format which was pioneering in the ways it mimicked the B.C. championships, the Chancellor set the bar of excellence around this province.
On Friday, almost three weeks after his passing at age 74, the school he not only played for and later guided to a pair of provincial championship titles as part of a nine-year senior boys coaching run, announced that his name would forever be tied to the tournament for which he so deeply cared.
With hopes running high that a 2021-22 high school basketball season will indeed be a reality, the St. Thomas More Knights’ annual senior boys tournament, set to run this coming Jan. 5-8, will now be known as the Rich Goulet Memorial Chancellor.
“The times when Rich came into our gym to play exhibition games, I could tell it felt good for him to come back to STM because this is where it all started for him,” current Knights’ senior boys head coach Aaron Mitchell said, referencing the fact that the largest share of Goulet’s history is of course tied to the 38 years (1978-2017) he spent at Pitt Meadows Secondary, where he led the Marauders to three more B.C. titles.
“So this it’s almost like a full-circle moment,” continued Mitchell, “and we are honoured to carry that on for him and his family, and to let him know that while he meant so much to Pitt Meadows, that he impacted so many others as well, including our STM community.”
To Mitchell, who has coached boys basketball at St. Thomas More since 2004-05, including the boys senior varsity the last 15 seasons, the idea to honour his friend came a week ago during Goulet’s memorial service.
“Driving home with my mind wandering, it just hit me,” said Mitchell, 43, who had previously coached under Goulet within the Basketball B.C. provincial program. “It literally just came to me and I thought ‘This needs to happen’.
“The (Chancellor) has been going on for so long,” continued Mitchell of a tournament which was denied a proper 55th birthday this past January because of the pandemic, “and Rich is such a vital part of STM basketball. There is still the Rich Goulet Unsung Hero scholarship here with money given in his name every year to one of our grads. He’s in our Hall of Fame. I just thought ‘This has to happen,’”
After speaking with the likes of former longtime senior boys coach Joe Thierman, former player and current alumni director Dom Zimmerman, and the late coach’s nephew, Dave Goulet, the decision became official.
And what excites Mitchell all the more is the fact that he and his players, as well as everyone associated with the newly-minted Rich Goulet Memorial Chancellor will be, in some way, feeling the spirit of the late coaching pioneer as the days draw nearer to its January tip-off.
“We know full well that if we’re going to attach a name like Rich Goulet’s to a tournament, it can’t be done half way,” said Mitchell. “We’re not about to throw his name on the tournament and be ho-hum. I hope that in 50 years, when I’m gone, that his name, his legacy and all the stories of Rich still carry on.”
Mitchell says the inaugural Rich Goulet Memorial Chancellor will continue, for the most part, to put its focus on B.C.’s Triple-A tier.
The STM head coach confirmed that the following 16 teams will take part: St. Thomas More Knights, G.W. Graham Grizzlies (Chilliwack), Byrne Creek Bulldogs (Burnaby), Steveston-London Sharks (Richmond), Fleetwood Park Dragons (Surrey), McNair Marlins (Richmond), R.A. McMath Wildcats (Richmond), Brookswood Bobcats (Langley), Sir Charles Tupper Tigers (Vancouver), Rick Hansen Hurricanes (Abbotsford), Carson Graham Eagles (North Vancouver), Duchess Park Condors (Prince George), Maple Ridge Ramblers, St. Patrick’s Celtics (Vancouver), Elgin Park Orcas (Surrey), North Delta Huskies.
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