By Steve Petrick
Richard Dean sits alone in the Air Canada Centre, watching the men’s basketball team play under the bright lights.
It’s the championship game of the Raptors Cup pre-season tournament and Ryerson’s men are proving they’re among the best teams in their division.
By contrast, the women’s team got bumped from the tournament earlier in the day, ending with three straight losses in the event.
Dean has helped coach both teams for the last several years. But the man who sought a head-coaching position during his whole career as an assistant and recruiter at Ryerson shows no signs of envy while watching the men’s team. He could have had a position with either one of the clubs, but opted to stay with the women.
He chose a dominant role with rebuilding a team, rather than a minor role with a contender.
However, from his seat about 30 metres from the bench he once sat on, Dean describes what he would have preferred to do: coach both teams, as he had done the past five years.
“They told me, ‘You’re going to have to dedicate your whole time, so that [the men’s] team can make the national championship,’” he says.
“I was of the opinion that I could do it—split the time and do an adequate job.”
But men’s coach Terry Haggerty disagreed.
The two squads play back-to-back in conference action, making it impossible for Dean to take part in pre-and post-game talks with both teams, which a lead assistant must do. So Haggerty ordered him to pick one team or the other.
Dean chose the women.
“With the women’s team I get a fair amount of input during games. And during practice some of my ideas for defence are used extensively,” he explains. “With the men’s team I don’t do quite as much,” he says. “They’re not really going to miss me.”
According to Chuck Mathies, Ryerson’s assistant director of athletics, basketball assistant coaches who recruit make a mere $5,000 annually, compared to head coaches, whose salaries exceed $40,000.
“Obviously it doesn’t pay the bills for me,” Dean said. “I do it as a passion.”
Men’s team captain Sasha Ivankovic misses the coach. “Coach Dean is the one that brought me here. He saw me play [in high school] and he’s a great guy to have around. He’s a player’s coach, the kind of coach you want.”
Women’s team member Kiley Fleming says the men’s loss is her team’s gain.
“He knows so much about the game, it’s not funny,” said the second-year post, who met Dean when he started coming to watch her play high-school games. “He’ll do whatever it takes to make you a better player.”
Dean was the one responsible for recruiting such legendary Rams as Carl Harper, Scott Belasco and Alex Beason, who still hold the CIAU single game record for points.
His basketball life started during his playing years at George Brown College in 1974 and 1975.
In his two years there, he never lost a game and was part of the first-ever Canadian College Athletic Association national championship team.
After graduating, Dean played in other leagues, but it was not enough to keep him busy it the sport he loved.
He started attending high school games so often that a friend from West Hill Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, Jack Eisenmann, asked him to help coach in the late 1980s. That’s where Dean’s love affair with coaching started.
Eisenmann, who once coached the national team, left the school to coach a professional team and let Dean take over.
Dean’s program at West Hill produced stars like Beason and Rowan Barrett, who was just waived by the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA and had a brief career with the Toronto Raptors. Barrett is currently the captain of Canada’s national team.
Dean came to Ryerson in 1991 to recruit and ocach the men’s team. Two years later, he was working with both teams.
Ever since, he has hoped to land a rare head-coaching job, but he doubts this year will be his last with the Rams. “I’m paying my dues right now,” he said.