Guelph Nighthawks president Cameron Kusch has been named the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL)’s first-ever Executive of the Year.
Kusch made the announcement on Twitter and Instagram Aug. 20, 2019 — two days before the inaugural CEBL Awards ceremony in Saskatoon.
“With the executive talent level across the board in this league I’m honoured to receive the award,” said Kush in a tweet that linked to a photo of the award on his Instagram account.
CEBL president and chief operating officer Lee Grenier tweeted his congratulations.
“Well deserved Cam,” Grenier said.
Guelph finished fifth out of six teams in the inaugural CEBL regular season with at 6-14 record, and did not qualify for the league’s four-team championship tournament this week in Saskatoon.
The team parted ways with head coach and GM Tarry Upshaw on July 1, with Kusch saying the vision he and Upshaw had for the club “were not aligned, and ultimately held the team back from achieving greater success on the court.
“When we launched the Nighthawks just over one year ago I had personally promised a fast-paced, exciting and winning brand of basketball here in Guelph,” Kusch said in a statement at the time.
“Our hope is that today’s move is the next step in committing to that promise for our fan base.”
Guelph assistant Juan Nunez took over as interim head coach, but a week later the Nighthawks announced a high-profile replacement: Charles Kissi, who spent the 2018 season as an assistant with Raptors 905 of the NBA G League.
Kissi is also a former head coach of the Brock University men’s team, leading the club to a fifth-place finish at the 2018 Canadian university championship tournament.
He left Brock in 2018 with a 107-72 record over five seasons. Kissi is also a former head coach of the Ryerson University women’s team, guiding them to consecutive OUA East Final Four appearances.
Before that, Kissi played at McMaster University and spent 10 years as an officer with the Toronto Police Service.
Guelph had a 3-7 record after Upshaw’s firing but show glimpses of promise, including a 125-115 win over the Saskatchewan Rattlers in the final game of its regular season.
Kusch graduated from Brock with a degree in sports management in 2001 and has worked for Golf Canada and the CFL’s Grey Cup. He also managed sales and client services for BC Place in Vancouver, and oversaw the stadium’s 18-month, $500 million renovation.
His executive role with the Nighthawks appears to be his first with a major basketball team.
Several other awards, as well as the CEBL All-Star Team, are scheduled to be unveiled Thursday at 7 p.m. Central Time.
Edmonton Stingers guard Xavier Moon and Hamilton Honey Badgers guard Ricky Tarrant Jr. have been nominated for Player of the Year.
Guillaume Payen-Boucard, a forward with the Niagara River Lions and Jordan Baker, a Stingers guard/forward, are competing for Canadian of the Year.
Ottawa BlackJacks select Osvaldo Jeanty as first-ever Head Coach
The pieces of the puzzle are coming together for the Ottawa BlackJacks basketball team.
The start-up Ottawa basketball professional club named former five-time Canadian University champion Osvaldo Jeanty as the franchise first-ever head coach. General Manager Dave Smart made the announcement on Friday morning following a brief search that always included Jeanty’s name at the top of the list.
“Obviously, Osvaldo and I have had a long history together since he was probably 15 or 14, playing club basketball on the Ottawa Guardsmen to his time at Carleton (as player) and then he was my assistant coach at Carleton”, discussed Smart during the press conference.
“Os and I have worked together from a coach, assistant coach perspective, so I know what he’s about in terms of what his exceptions are, and we’re very much inline in terms of what our expectations are, and he knows how I operate and is comfortable working with me. So I think it’s an obvious fit, it’s and easy fit and we are really excited to start working together and put a team on the floor”, further elaborated the former Carleton Ravens on his selection process.
“It’s the first time he’s called me Osvaldo so many times since I was 15, I’m not really used to it.” a smiling Jeanty opened-up about his longtime head coach and mentor during his introductory speech.
Jeanty + Smart winning combination since the late 1990’s
The duo go back to late 1990’s with Jeanty playing for Smart at the Midget and Ontario Basketball U-19 Provincial teams. Under Smart’s guidance, Jeanty flourished as player helping turn the Carleton Ravens’ basketball program into the powerhouse that it is today.
The Ravens’ won five (2002-2007) straight U Sports men’s basketball championships during their time together as a coach-player combo — with Jeanty earning the Final 8 Jack Donohue championship MVP trophy twice, during his freshman and junior campaigns. A proven winner at all levels, Jeanty turned an outstanding collegiate career into a six year pro career, earning a championship with the Giants Nördlingen of Germany’s ProA league.
Inducted into Carleton Ravens Hall of Fame in 2015 — Jeanty earned an additional two titles as a coaching duo during their three-year (2016-19) stretch.
Both Jeanty and Smart were featured on the cover of the first-ever Canadian Basketball Magazine on March of 2005.
“I just wanted to say how thankful I am to Dave to Mike (Morreale) to the league for giving me this opportunity, also just for the Ottawa community. I’ve been here since I was six-years old and I appreciate what the community has given to me and the opportunity to be able give back to the community that has been so good to me is something that I’m very thankful for. So thank you and I look forward to really bringing a good product out there for the city, for the team and really representing the league the right way.”
As for the type of style and brand of the basketball the BlackJacks expect to play — Jeanty offered a glimpse of the same championship formula that has led to many successful moments between the now general manager and head coach tandem.
“He’s put into my head since I was 15, in terms of the keys to winning championships and I tend to follow the same of idea. You defend, you rebound, you don’t turnover the ball over — but at the same time you have 24 seconds on the shot clock so you want to play as fast a possible while not turning over the basketball.”
The attention now turns to rounding out the remaining coaching staff positions and the complex process of putting together a championship calibre team — that will undoubtedly have it’s sights on establishing an early grip on the proudly Canadian made Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) championship trophy.
With the addition of Jeanty to the head coaching ranks the CEBL now features two former Carleton Ravens’ players turned bench bosses. Niagara River Lions head coach Victor Raso also won two national championships as a member of the Ravens.
Coincidentally, Jeanty’s head coaching debut will be against Raso as the Ottawa BlackJacks will kick-off the inaugural 2020 season on the road on May 7th against the Niagara River Lions. The BlackJacks home opener is scheduled for May 14th against the Hamilton Honey Badgers.
Ottawa BlackJacks hire Dave Smart as General Manager
It was only a matter of time for Dave Smart to get back in the game.
Truthfully, he really never left.
Bored and tired of beating up and winning championships at the Canadian U Sports basketball level — Smart shocked the nation by announcing his coaching retirement a week after winning his 14th title in 19 years with the Carleton Ravens.
Now, nine months after walking way from the coaching bench, Smart will take on a new challenge in the role of General Manager with the upstart Ottawa BlackJacks franchise of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).
When it was announced that the City of Ottawa was awarded a professional basketball team less than month ago — many pointed and wondered to what capacity the sure-shot future Canadian Basketball hall-famer would have with the organization. After all, you don’t just walk into one of Canada’s biggest basketball markets and set-up a franchise without consulting with, and getting the blessing of one of the games’ sharpest minds.
With the BlackJacks, Smart will take on a executive role with club, and much like his current leadership position with the Carleton Ravens — he will be responsible for the day-to-day basketball operations of the CEBL’s 7th franchise.
“Creating a professional basketball program is an exciting challenge. Our city and the thousands of basketball fans deserve a team. I am honoured to be the first general manager in franchise history and look forward to seeing many familiar faces represent the Ottawa BlackJacks as the season unfolds. I am thankful to Carleton University for allowing me to accept this opportunity while continuing my role with the university.” stated Smart at a press conference at the TD Place, the of home the BlackJacks.
With his roots firmly cemented in the Ottawa basketball region since the mid 1990’s and a unprecedented dynasty and winning culture — which he built from scratch less than five kilometers from TD Place at Carleton University. It’s early days in the new venture, but it’s fair to say that the BlackJacks have made their first smart decision towards establishing the team as a potential powerhouse in Canada’s Elite Basketball League.
“The Ottawa BlackJacks welcome the most successful basketball leader in Canada. Throughout his illustrious career, Dave Smart has developed a basketball program that is the envy of university sport throughout the world. Dave will help create a winning environment in Ottawa as we build together the foundation of this franchise. The professional basketball landscape is filled with alumni of Dave Smart and the Carleton Ravens. We thank Carleton University for their commitment to the community. There is no better person to orchestrate a winning team. As the BlackJacks strive to be champions in the community and on the court, we just took the best first step.” added Michael Cvitkovic, Interim President of the BlackJacks.
With the season just five months away the team has quite a bit of work to do as it gets set to kick-off it’s inaugural game on road against the Niagara River Lions on May 7, 2020. The home-opener is set for a week later on May 14th against the Hamilton Honey Badgers.
The next major announcements will be the BlackJacks head coach and staff, followed by player announcements and various other community initiatives.