Tarry Upshaw named first head coach/GM of Nighthawks

GUELPH – The Guelph Nighthawks became the first team in Canadian Elite Basketball League history to put a head coach and general manager in position when they named Tarry Upshaw to both posts Wednesday.

“It’s always nice to come back to Guelph because I still believe it’s the best community I’ve ever been in for basketball as far as the people in the community love the game. If you are successful and you work hard, they show up. They give you a chance. That’s all you can really ask for.”

“In our search we continually came back to the same person,” Nighthawks president Cameron Kusch said. “(Upshaw stood out for) his ties to the Guelph community, his understanding that community engagement is a critical piece as we build out and promote professional basketball here in Guelph and also for his exceptional coaching resume as well.

“After meeting our head coach and GM, I came away equally impressed by his vision and his plan for the on-court product and style of play he has planned for us for next year.”

“My goal is to build an exciting team that when you come to the gym, it’s an event from the start to the end,” Upshaw said. “I feel that with my contacts and with the players that have played for me with the national team and other levels, I feel that we can recruit some of the best athletes to come back here and play in the summer. My goal is to make sure that we’re excellent on the floor, we play our butt off and we represent Guelph at the highest level we can.”

Upshaw, whose coaching career started in District 10 high school basketball play as an assistant with the Centennial Spartans and then a head coach with the Guelph CVI Green Gaels.

“My first head coaching was at GCVI,” he said. “We had a really good run. I don’t think people expected us to be good. With Pete Papadedes, John Tait and the whole crew that had never won a game and then we lost in the quarter-finals to Bishop Mac that year. I think we were only 6-6, but those six wins were big.”

The coaching in the local high school league followed a stint as a player with the Guelph Gryphons during the House of Slam days in the old Mitchell Athletics Centre when Tim Mau and Eric Hammond helped the Gryphs reach the national championship tournament.

“During that era, I was doing a lot of this,” Upshaw said clapping. “I was also doing a lot of learning so I will try to bring back a lot of that energy and passion.”

That Gryphon squad was pretty much a run-and-gun squad and that style will be similar to the one he hopes the Nighthawks will employ.

“We’ll be up and down,” he said. “We’ll be disciplined in the quarter-court. The way the FIBA game is, and I’ve been very fortunate the last few years in coaching and basically running the Jamaican national youth program, you’ve got to be able to play every style. You’ve got to be able to run. You’ve got to be able to play in the quarter-court. Sidelines, inline play and special teams stuff at the end of the game are so important because that’s how you win a lot of games.”

Being realistic, Upshaw figures his biggest contributions in coaching will come during practices.

“The game truly is a players’ game,” he said. “You train them, you teach them and then you let them go and hopefully the actions you run and the style of play you run is beneficial. You’ve only got two in the first (half) and three in the second as far as timeouts go and if you don’t use them, you lose them. You’ve really got to play within your system and you’ve got to have a great point guard.”

Upshaw has coached professionally in Europe with Iceland’s Skatligrimur, in Asia with the Hong Kong national team and in the Caribbean with the Jamaican U18 national team.

“I’ve done a lot of national teams and youth stuff and back in the day I did some pro stuff, but it’s amazing how many guys I’ve coached who are playing pro and they’re all calling me saying ‘Coach, what should I do? Where should I go? What’s going on?’ Two of them called me right up when they heard (of the league) and said ‘Get a team, call me up and I’ll play for you.’”

Currently Upshaw is Ridley College’s director of basketball and head coach of its Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association team. The OSBA season runs from October to March making it a good fit with coaching in the CEBL.

Upshaw also hopes his contacts with Canadian players who are competing in leagues overseas brings them to the court at the Sleeman Centre. The seasons for the European and Asian leagues mirror the OSBA season, making those players available to play in Guelph in the summertime. Upshaw has worked with Basketball Canada’s target program.

“I’ve been very fortunate that I have a lot of relationships,” he said. “A lot of the guys that are playing pro, I’ve worked with them in the summers, in the gym with them doing stuff. It’s not like it’s a new face, it’s an old face.

“It’s amazing how many people have reached out to me already about the CEBL having no idea I had anything to do with it.”

Next up for the Nighthawks will be the announcement of their schedule in the CEBL’s inaugural season. That’s expected mid-November.

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