Rainmen Announce Les Berry as New Coach

So today the Halifax Rainmen announced that former Acadia Axemen headcoach Les Berry will be taking over as the team’s head coach.

It’s not really a surprising choice – he knows Jad from his time at SMU, is currently without a coaching gig, is from Halifax and has had a great deal of success.  Berry has lots of local basketball connections and provides name recognition as well as coaching skills to a franchise which desperately needs both.  Ever since he resigned last season I’ve been suggesting he should get the job and it really would be sort of confusing if he wasn’t hired.  My understanding is that he has already met with all the players at meeting Wednesday at the Rainmen offices and when he left he brought game tape with him to break down so that he can be prepared to take on the Frost Heaves.  From what I was told by a source the players are excited that he’s coming in and were impressed with what he had to say at the meeting and that he was already doing film work.

He has a bit of a checkered past but nothing extreme.  He played an ineligable transfer for two games in the fall of 2007 and was hit with some pretty excessive sanctions.  He also left Acadia last year citing burnout and some people claimed it was to avoid an investigation into further recruitment violations but nothing was ever even investigated.  I’ve also heard that Brian Heaney, a basketball legend and currently Athletic Director at Acadia, was interfering with Berry and that led to the departure.  Of course burnout and interference from the AD are not mutually exclusive – having an old guy riding you all season certainly increases the likelyhood of burning out.  I think that all things considered, Berry is an absolute steal for the Rainmen.  He’s a local guy with some big time success and a proven track record of knowing the game and getting a great deal out of his players.

At one point he was the women’s head coach at King’s and the assistant men’s coach at SMU.  He was the head coach of the women’s team at Brandon in ’03-04 before taking over as the men’s coach in 2004-05.  He then coached at Acadia from 2005-08 where he led Acadia to an AUS championship and all the way to the CIS championship game after they upset Carlton in an absolute thriller in Ottawa.  (Oddly enough that game against the Ravens was the same night as the season closer for the Rainmen and Duncan and I caught the last half hour of it at a bar with no sound)  He was also AUS coach of the year in 2007.

Here is how Chad Lucas described him last year after he announced his resignation from Acadia:

Berry accomplished something extremely impressive in three years at Acadia. He took a program that had fallen apart and brought it from the basement of the AUS to a national championship game in three years. He survived a thrashing on a national stage, he survived an embarrassing and damaging eligibility violation that spring, he heard the critics and the doubters all of last season. But he built a winner. He turned his players into winners. Players who came out of the turmoil of the post-Dave Nutbrown, brief-but-messy Tim Darling/Jeff Cummins era, players who weathered a long 2-17 season in Berry’s first year. Players who froze, shell-shocked, as Carleton kept scoring and scoring and scoring in that agonizing train wreck of a quarter-final in 2007. Berry and his team bounced back. They faced their demons and won, slaying the Ravens in the national semifinals in the most thrilling CIS game many of us have ever seen. And they were about 10 minutes and a final spurt of adrenaline from winning a national championship.

They made basketball important at Acadia again.

One other thing that I think is important to note is that he’s taken the sort of route to get to the point of being a top flight head coach that mirrors what minor league players dohe took every job he could, he bounced around, was in the right place at the right time to get his shot, and made the most of his opportunities.  Nothing’s come easy to him as a coach and he’s screwed up a few times along the way – all stuff guys on the team can relate to.  Here’s hoping he can help the team get over that hump and go from good team to contender.

To be honest, I don’t know enough about basketball in general and CIS hoops in particular to say what this means for the Rainmen on the court.  Can someone else (HuskiesAUS? bluenoser? Chad Lucas?) make some predictions on the style we could see the team play now with Berry at the helm?  Do you figure certain guys will get more or less time now?

Edit: Chad Lucas has added some details from the press conference to his blog.  Definitely go give it a read, but in the mean time here are some of the highlights that made me really, really excited:

I talked to Eric Crookshank at today’s press conference and Crookshank said the team worked on three new offensive sets with seven different entry points at their first practice this morning.

Berry’s been poring over video of the team for the past day, and here were some of the observations he shared with me today about the team’s play on both ends:

“There’s one pass and three guys are just standing around and two guys are working together. If that gets stopped, it’s tough to go out and score.”

“Teams are going on runs of 16-2, 16-3, and all the Rainmen are doing is shooting jump shots. There’s no ability or identification to go inside, to get to the foul line to stop the runs. Everybody’s just trying to make shots. From there, offensively everybody is just standing.”

“Defensively, rebounding is treacherous for us. We’ve got to do a better job defensively.

That all sounds absolutely fantastic.  The one other thing worth noting is that he’s only committed for the rest of this season so we’ll be looking at a hunt for a new coach in a few months.  Until then I think it’s safe to say that the team is in good hands.


14 thoughts on “Rainmen Announce Les Berry as New Coach

  1. Wow, you got on that fast! Berry seems like a good coach but is he a good fit for the Rainmen? Lots of egos to manage and he is coming in midseason.

  2. I’m of the opinion that at the pro level a coach can have more influence on a team’s defensive play than its offensive play – because most players are in the pros because of their OFF skills. With Coach Berry this will most certainly be true – players who fail defensively will have plenty of time to rest, check out the hecklers in Section 23 and look at the girls. He really has no time for defensive lapses. Offensively, he is not a control freak which is so important at every level but especially with pros. He is used to running an offence with a 24 second clock and a short backcourt count(CDN universities use the FIBA 24 sec clock and 8 sec backcourt, PBL uses a 7 sec backcourt) – which is so different from the NCAA Men’s 35 sec and 10 sec counts. That being said I’m pretty sure Dandridge and Silverhorn will be told fairly quickly that they can get a contested 24 footer at any time in the clock and in the first 10 seconds is a no-no. He has shown an ability to choose an OFF style according to his personnel – at both Acadia and Brandon his teams played up-tempo as they had great athletes – which should be the case here. A PG who can run the show without TOs will be rewarded under Coach Berry (like any sane coach). He will work the officials hard and will earn his share of T’s but require his players not to take them. It will be interesting to see how he and AL get along – Les likes to run his own show (see problems with Heaney mentioned above).

    Should be an interesting game on Sunday.

  3. Thanks a lot for that bluenoser. I am hoping that Kevin Hammack can find his way back into the rotation.
    I am really excited about this team again.

  4. This is a good move. Les Berry is a quality coach who will bring immediate improvement to the team.

    As we’ve seen AL stands behind his coach in “clashes” with players, so I think Berry will have plenty of clout to deal with the ego’s.

    I think we’ll see some true half court offensive sets and much more defensive intensity from the team.

  5. I liked Les when he was at King’s and even more at Acadia. One thing that most will notice immediately is his in-game presence. Opposing teams might’ve had a hard time figuring out which one was the head coach when Lewis was on the bench, but Berry is much more animated, involved, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple technicals from him this year (especially considering this leagues reffing). I see this as a very good thing: hopefully Berry can earn the calls for the Rainmen that Lewis didn’t.

    I can’t WAIT until Sunday!!!!

  6. Don’t worry about technicals, the refs have never called one in Halifax, even with visiting coaches blowing their tops at the refs and stomping all over the court. The refs may not even know what a technical is.

  7. This is more a put butts in the move I think. This provides a “local” component to the team, something it lost this year. So fans of the coach are more likely now to come to the game.

    As someone else posted, this team never really had offensive issues, it was the defensive breakdowns, loss of focus and inability to closeout games, that has been hurting them.

    The big pluses here is he’s a local guy, and a proven coach.

    I don’t think managing egos will be a problem, as long as guys that deserve minutes get them. I knew there were issues last week just from watching Strickland’s reaction during the fourth quarter time outs. He wandered away from the bench, constantly shaking his head, he wasn’t into Lewis’ coaching, and was pissed about riding the bench. Hopefully the new coach gets the best team on the floor, depending on the circumstances.

  8. Berry is a great choice and should have been offered the job in the summer. I think it shows how bad things have been when fans are this excited about a coach saying things that are common sense.

  9. That is stupid. Ticket Atlantic is the absolute worst ticketing agent in Canada. What a horrible, horrible system. It’s too bad that the MetroCentre run ticket atlantic so everyone has to use it.

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