By Gavin Axelrod
It was the final day for applications to be submitted for the position of manager, operations and head coach of the Ryerson Rams men’s basketball program. At the time, David DeAveiro had no intention of leaving his now former position as head coach of McGill University’s men’s basketball team, but that changed when a friend sent him a Ryerson Rams job posting on LinkedIn.
“It wasn’t something I had planned on doing, but I saw it as an opportunity, as something I had to look at doing,” said DeAveiro.
For the last 10 years, DeAveiro resided in Montreal where he spent a decade as head coach of McGill’s men’s basketball team and led the program to five Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) championships and five appearances at the U Sports Final 8 Tournament.
When DeAveiro became head coach of the program in 2010, McGill’s last appearance at the U Sports Final 8 national championship tournament was during the 1978-79 season. McGill’s first trip to the tournament under DeAveiro’s leadership came during the 2012-13 campaign.
He finished his tenure at the university with a 199-137 coaching record.
“What he built at McGill was unprecedented, it was historic,” said Peter Yannopoulos, an NBA analyst on TV for Réseau des sports (RDS), Bell Media’s French sports network. “Nobody has ever taken that program and risen it to the level Dave brought it [to].”
“Multiple provincial championships [and] a contender for national championships, [we’d] never seen that before at McGill. He built a sustainable program where it was hard to win in the past, and he did it the right way.”
Throughout his many years within the Canadian basketball sphere, Yannopoulos has developed a strong bond with DeAveiro.
The two met for the first time while DeAveiro was the head coach of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. DeAveiro coached the Gee-Gees from 2001-2010, leading the team to nine playoff appearances and three national tournament bids. His success at the university helped him capture three OUA East Coach of the Year awards.
He left the program as its all-time wins leader with 202 victories, earned during his tenure with the university.
“What he built at McGill was unprecedented, it was historic”
“[We] shared the same passion for the game as we both are lifers in basketball,” said Yannopoulos. “When he came to McGill University I got a chance to attend a lot of his practices and a lot of his games…we just hit it off that way and became good friends for a long time.”
DeAveiro enjoyed a mountain of success at McGill, but the lack of diversity in the team’s conference opponents would become a factor in his departure.
The RSEQ is U Sports’ Quebec conference and is comprised of five different universities.
Playing the same opponents for ten years would be the average person’s equivalent of solving the same puzzle multiple times a week for a decade. Once you put the pieces together a handful of times, it’s not the same.
“I loved McGill, but I didn’t particularly like playing in a conference that only had five teams,” said DeAveiro. “I was kind of hoping that during my time there, there’d be more teams in the league or we would’ve joined the [Ontario University Athletics conference].”
“I was getting really tired of playing the same team four or five times in a year. That was starting to weigh on me.”
The variety of opponents in the 18-team OUA conference coupled with the opportunity to be closer to his family made the lure of returning home to Toronto too much to ignore.
“I’m from Toronto, my brother lives here, my parents live here, [and] my son goes to school in Orangeville. This is home for me, this is where our roots are,” said DeAveiro.
On April 27, it was reported that DeAveiro would become the 14th head coach of the Ryerson men’s basketball program and the paradigm in U Sports basketball shifted.
DeAveiro admitted it wasn’t an easy decision to leave McGill, especially after spending a decade there and becoming part of the community.
“Everybody at McGill, the community, those people embraced me,” said DeAverio. “We had some success there and we built something there, I had the support system and the backing of the sports department, the school and the alumni. It was tough to walk away from.”
“The basketball part, I’ve always said, is probably the easiest part of coaching. Dealing with young men, helping them get through the struggles that they get through and being there for the success is important to me”
Becoming the head coach of the Rams was something DeAveiro had considered before, but the timing wasn’t right. This time, the stars aligned.
“I felt that Ryerson was a great team, [the position] was something I was interested in a long time ago,” said DeAveiro. “I saw what [former Rams head coach Roy Rana] had built, what Ryerson is and that intrigued me.”
In addition to being one of the most successful active coaches in the country, he’s also one of the most respected. His 20 years of coaching experience includes stints with Canadian national programs at the junior and senior men’s level, along with the cadet team.
“Dave is such a humble human being,” said Yannopoulos. “I think he’s somebody that not only I would want to play for, I would want to coach with and if my son had an opportunity to play for him, I would really vouch for him to play for coach DeAveiro.
The opportunity to come home to Toronto and play in a conference with more depth has rejuvenated DeAveiro’s competitive side.
“I’m a competitor, I like to coach and I like to compete against the best and from track record, the best is in this conference,” said DeAveiro.
Ryerson’s basketball pedigree over the years with six national championship tournament appearances in nine years is not just a selling point for him, but for future recruits.
“There’s always kids who want to play at Ryerson because of its reputation of [being] a great program,” said DeAveiro. “It’s one of the things that attracted me to Ryerson, was the different kinds of [players] that maybe we weren’t able to recruit at McGill.”
In the coming years he hopes to continue the vision of Ryeron’s former athletic director Ivan Joseph, who joined Ryerson in 2008 and left in 2018, while putting his own spin on things.
DeAveiro said he thinks it was part of Joseph’s dream to make Ryerson a pillar of basketball in Toronto
“That’s [also] what I think Ryerson can be, it can be a pillar of basketball in the city of Toronto,” he added.
“One of the things we’re pushing is that Ryerson can be the second best basketball ticket in the city next to the Raptors, so come be a part of it.”
What makes him the complete package and one of the most respected coaches in the country isn’t just his distinguished resume, but also his work off the hardwood.
DeAveiro stressed part of his mission as the new head coach of the Rams is making sure his players are ready for life after basketball.
“Ryerson can be the second best basketball ticket in the city next to the Raptors, so come be a part of it”
“With our players, it’s just getting them ready for real life, whatever they want to do,” said DeAveiro. “Making sure that I’m preparing them for that and just talking with them, supporting them and guiding them so that when they graduate they’re ready for the real world.”
This is something Rams point guard and U Sports second-team All-Canadian Tevaun Kokko sees as a crucial conversation.
“It’s something we don’t talk about as athletes in Canada, but we’re not the NBA funnel unfortunately, the odds of us getting to the real world and [having] to maintain real world responsibilities and jobs, it’s quite realistic,” said Kokko, adding that being prepared in that aspect is necessary.
DeAveiro is also hoping to make a mark in the community at Ryerson in similar fashion to his time at McGill.
“[Being] a coach who has given back to the community and has done things in the community, that’s something I want to do a lot of,” said DeAveiro. “I just think that if you work hard and you’re good to people, [good] things will happen to you, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
“The basketball part, I’ve always said, is probably the easiest part of coaching. Dealing with young men, helping them get through the struggles that they get through and being there for the success is important to me.”
DeAveiro has coached in U Sports for two decades and has the basketball part down to a science. But much like his stops at uOttawa and McGill, building a strong culture off the court will be as important as putting a winning team on the court.
All that’s left for him to do is work his magic and push Ryerson over the hump to lead them to their first-ever national championship.