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:
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: