One award for coaching excellence, two excellent coaches.
The Mike Potkonjak Lower Mainland Coach of the Year, an award that recognizes coaching excellence, was mistakenly presented twice last week, making the blunder the latest example of miscommunication and apparent aversion between the Lower Mainland High School Boys Basketball Association and two of its member schools, St. George’s and Vancouver College.
On Tuesday following the Killarney Cougar’s 59-69 loss to Burnaby’s Byrne Creek, Rod Tanabe accepted the honour after four decades as a school counsellor and basketball coach at Britannia, Churchill and most recently Killarney. The presentation was made at centre court after the game at Vancouver College.
Then on Saturday following the St. George’s Saints 57-58 championship win over Kitsilano, Saints coach Guy daSilva was named the coach of the year and also given the award named for the late Vancouver sports builder.
St. George’s director of athletics Richard Cohee said daSilva was given the Mike Potkonjak award after he was selected by the tournament’s all-star committee. It’s not clear who or how many people were on the committee, which also selected the tournament’s outstanding players. The committee may have included Jon Tagulao, the director of the basketball program at Vancouver College, and Jocelyn Manion, the head of senior school athletics at St. George’s. Howard Kelsey was not on the committee.
Cohee, Tagulao and daSilva did not return Courier phone calls. Tagulao was absent from the final two days of the tournament.
Outrage from a number of public school coaches was immediate.
Paul Eberhardt with the executive committee of the Lower Mainland basketball association sent an email to all zone coaches to announce Killarney’s Tanabe as the winner of the coaching award at 11:43 p.m. Saturday night after the honour was also presented to daSilva.
“I honestly don’t know why they felt this was an award they could give out. I have to assume they just didn’t know,” he told the Courier. “They absolutely can’t do that so I’m assuming a mistake was made and I want to make sure that mistake is corrected.”
In an email reply to Eberhardt and the region’s coaches, daSilva apologized for the error.
“Coach Tanabe has been a pillar of the coaching community and his contribution to basketball in the Lower Mainland has been invaluable. We regret that we didn’t have the opportunity to recognize and reward him in front of the basketball community as he deserved to be. We will send the plaque awarded for coaching excellence to Coach Tanabe on Monday,” wrote daSilva who this year was the Lower Mainland boys basketball association president, a role that rotates annually.
“We did not know that the award winner was already chosen, as we did not receive any instructions or guidelines from the Lower Mainland on anything regarding hosting and organizing the tournament. We simply instructed our selection committee to award the Mike Potkonjack coaching award to who they felt was the coach of the tournament.
“We, St. George’s and Vancouver College, as hosts of the Lower Mainland Championships endeavoured to provide the best experience for players, coaches and fans alike and hope that all those who attended enjoyed the experience. Thanks to all of those who participated and came out to support the teams over the course of the season.”
The president of the B.C. Boys High School Basketball Association directed the St. George’s and its delegates to host the tournament in the same decision that granted St. George’s direct entry into the tournament and created a 13-team draw.
Cohee said all responsibility fell to the two independent schools.
“They decided not to participate,” Cohee said Saturday of former tournament organizers and hosts, who are primarily community and public school coaches. “There was an entire other all-star committee set up because they declined to participate.”
The tournament was initially hosted by Churchill and Kitsilano secondary schools.
Mike Potkonjak, a sports pioneer in Vancouver, is credited with developing the basketball programs at King George and David Thompson secondary schools, starting in the 1960s. His sons played at Magee. Potkonjak died over a decade ago of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The award named in his honour is presented to a Lower Mainland A, AA or AAA high school senior boys coach who has made a significant contribution through hard work, commitment, and technical excellence.
Past winners include Bob Dodds of West Point Grey Academy, Jeff Gourley with Tupper, Brian Lee of St. George’s, Harry Franklin of Magee and Ted Cusick who coached at Point Grey, Killarney and Windermere.