Cory Russell’s tenure as head coach of the Dinos men’s basketball has come to an end.
On Mon., Mar. 13, University of Calgary Athletic Director Don Wilson announced that Russell’s contract would not be renewed for the 2000/01 season.
"Decisions like this are very difficult," Wilson said. "I felt that in the best interests of the players, a change in team leadership was essential."
Hired in 1995 by then-Athletic Director Bob Corran, Russel boasted a long resume of professional and varsity level coaching positions. In his five seasons in Calgary, the Dinos made only two playoff appearances, losing in the first round on both occasions.
As an American citizen, Russell’s contract needed renewal each season in order for him to renew his one-year work visa.
"He is the only coach that applies to," noted Wilson. "Everyone else is a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant."
Rumours abounded over the season that Russell’s time at the U of C was nearly up, but Wilson denied that he was watching Russell any closer than he did the other coaches.
"I tried to lay out objectives for the coaches to make their evaluations more appropriate. It was as much [the Dinos’ 7-13 record this season] as a decision to change team leadership."
While Dinos basketball players declined to comment on the dismissal, Wilson acknowledged that player evaluations were consulted when deciding whether or not to renew the contract.
"The basketball players, as all student athletes do, filled out confidential coaching evaluation forms. The information held within these forms was taken into consideration in making the decision."
While Russell’s success as a coach was limited (his record with the Dinos was a dismal 31-69), his talent for bringing players into the organization is worth recognizing. Josh Goertzen, Kyle Russell, Erroll Jarrett and Navi Sekhon were among the players Russell brought into the fold who didn’t play out their eligibility.
"I think he was a good recruiter," said Wilson, noting that the U of C’s scholarship limitations and high entrance requirements (compared to the universities of Alberta or Lethbridge) hurt Russell.
The search for Russell’s replacement will begin immediately.
"The human resources posting will go up at the end of this week," said Wilson. "The coaching fraternity is a tight group, so the word on the street is out."
Some potential bench bosses have expressed interest already, but Wilson wouldn’t say who.
"We’ve had some calls already, but we haven’t had Bobby Knight call yet," he joked. "We’re holding out for Bobby Knight or Pat Riley."
Former Dinos star Richard Bohne, who has applied for the vacant Mount Royal College position, is one possible candidate.
"Of course I’m interested," he said, over the phone from Idaho. "I’ve put my name in. It would be a great opportunity. My family and I would love to come back to Calgary."
The Dinos will also lose assistant coach Gary Howard next year. Howard has agreed to become the assistant coach to his daughter, who heads up a junior college program in California.