LU Lady Vees coach has playoff plans

By: Randy Pascal – Playback

 | Mar 31, 2014 - 1:19 PM |
Lady Vees coach Jason Hurley wants to get the Laurentian University basketball squad back into playoffs after a four-year drought. Photo by Randy Pascal.

Lady Vees coach Jason Hurley wants to get the Laurentian University basketball squad back into playoffs after a four-year drought. Photo by Randy Pascal.

When Jason Hurley was named the head coach of Laurentian University's women's basketball last summer, it might well have been the quietest announcement in the history of LU varsity athletics.

But now, with a full year of competition under his belt, Hurley is more than ready to start making some noise.

The only child of Irish immigrants, Hurley and family grew up in the Walkerton area, not exactly a hot-bed for the growth of hardcourt talent.

"When I started playing basketball, back in the 1970s in Bruce County, it was the non-contact sport for guys who didn't want to play hockey," Hurley said recently. "I think my mom saw the violence in hockey, although it's kind of funny because 'hurling' (a long-standing Irish sporting tradition) is far more violent than hockey."

After a strong high school basketball run, Hurley played with a pretty talented Laurentian team from 1992-1997.

"(Then coach) Peter Campbell kept me in my first year and now I'm in his office," Hurley smiled.

Part of a team that would eventually include the all-Canadian talents of Brad Hann, Shawn Swords and Cory Bailey, Hurley found his niche as a spot-up three-point shooter.

More importantly, he forged friendships that would become invaluable in his eventual journey towards coaching. Wrapping up his playing days with a two-year stint in Ireland, Hurley came back to Toronto, seemingly content to pursue his interest in the restaurant and bar industry.

But a phone call from Swords, in town for Basketball Canada workouts, opened the door to coaching. "Shawn invited me out to practice," Hurley recalled. "At that practice, (national team head coach) Jay Triano came to me and said that he didn't have enough coaches on hand.

"He handed me a practice plan, I ran with it, and from that time, I knew that I would not be going back to bartending."

If this new path was to become reality, Hurley's Laurentian contacts would be critical in making it all happen.

Hurley spent two years as an assistant coach with Peter Campbell (former Voyageurs coach) at Laurier, before accepting an offer to head back up to his old post-secondary stomping grounds in Northern Ontario, working alongside Swords.

"Just being an assistant with Shawn Swords, my best friend, that was pretty cool," said Hurley.

Just not cool enough to ignore an opportunity to step in as the Lady Vees head coach when the opportunity presented itself. He was in for a challenge, taking the reigns of a program that was struggling, having missed the playoffs for three straight years.

Thankfully, his time in the Ben Avery Gym allowed Hurley to provide input with the Lady Vees, developing an appreciation for the differences coaching men and women.

"Basketball-wise, you have to be a little more precise, in terms of the way you execute," Hurley said. "In men's basketball, you can run a play, and it doesn't work, but Nelson Yengue jumps out of the gym and dunks it over two U of T guys and you win a playoff game."

Though he knows that some may have questioned his appointment, Hurley has faith, largely grounded on the basketball tradition of the blue and gold.

"If you look at the amount of coaches that are in the CIS that have Laurentian basketball ties, it's crazy," he said. "It's a school that is made for leaders."

Good thing, as Hurley attempts to lead the Voyageurs back into the playoffs after extending the skid to four years in 2013-2014.

And when he gets there, there will be nothing quiet about his arrival.

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