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National Champion Calgary Dinos Coach Dan Vanhooren On His Coaching Philosophy

Dan Vanhooren | Head Coach | University of Calgary Men's Basketball

The Philosophy that we believe strongly in is “the development of great young men.” This philosophy is embedded in everything that we aspire to do.

Dan Vanhooren

Head Coach

University of Calgary Men's Basketball

× The interview with Dan Vanhooren was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

What is your main philosophy when coaching basketball and how did you implement that into the Dinos program when you arrived in 2000?

The Philosophy that we believe strongly in is the development of great young men. This philosophy is embedded in everything that we aspire to do. From a professional approach to training and playing the game of basketball to how we treat each other, accept accountability, live and work in our community etc. We have the players work with underprivileged kids from the community in a mentorship program each week, while each player is also mentored by an alumnus or supporter working in the same field that the athlete is studying. Basically, all of our decisions are based on what is best for the athletes’ development in becoming a great young man.

Your team has achieved a lot of success in the last five years, having won 3 Canada West titles and the USports National Championship in 2018. What kind of impact has that had on the program overall?

We have gotten significant attention from our alumni and supporters including stronger resourcing. In addition, we have a broader and more global reach for the recruitment and retention of our athletes.

The overall environment that we work in is about excellence in all facets, and not about setting a lower bar. We expect to be in the picture at the end of each season, and in truth, it is a great deal of fun. The winning is a by-product of a lot of work from many people, players and staff. People want to be a part of success naturally, so it has created some momentum for our program. It is our responsibility to continue to capitalize on this momentum in the best way possible without losing sight of our goal to develop great young men.

Assistant coach Matt Skinn of the 2018 National Championship winning team went on to become Cape Breton’s Head coach for men’s basketball. How did winning the title and your mentorship impact him as a coach?

Matt Skinn is an excellent mind in the game of basketball. While winning a title and being involved in our Dinos program at a young age may have impacted his future in some way, I hesitate to think that it was simply my mentorship. We have great people working in our program, including Rich Hesketh (athlete development), Wayne Thomas (Sixth Man Club and former assistant coach), Dan Pearson (Assistant Coach), Kelly Anne Erdman (Nutrition Consulting), Kyle Landry (Assistant Coach), Blaine Miciak (Assistant Coach), Dean McCord (Manager) and many others.

They all have great value and those that Matt was around during his time with us from 2005-2008 or from 2016-2018 all have had some influence on him I would guess. Matt has done a great job of absorbing what he can that he felt was positive from our group and applying and combining it to his own philosophy.

After graduating from the Dinos, Mambi Diawara went on to become a global basketball sensation playing in Finland for the Helsinki Seagulls and winning the CEBL title with the Edmonton Stingers this year. How did your program provide guidance for him to succeed with the Dinos and afterwards on his professional journey internationally?

Mambi Diawara is a success. This is because he found it in himself to make good choices when other alternatives were available. This is not to say that he has always done this, but through his time with us, he really did grow into a man. I am extraordinarily proud of Mambi and grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of his life.

Most of our guidance for Mambi was based on managing the change in lifestyle from Montreal to Calgary and providing support. With players that have his skill level and willingness to attack life (on the court or not), there is a fine balance between pulling on the reins and allowing for a player to be who they truly are. Mambi and I found a balance together over several conversations, and while we bumped heads a few times I can admit that he was right – taking risks and playing the game (life or basketball) with courage is necessary. We just needed to find the right limits to this courage to find the best possible results. He is an amazing story.

What were the 3 most important factors that helped your 2018 team win the USports National Championship?

  1. Humility – We knew we had to work and serve each other. Coaches and players alike were leading by being themselves. There was space for Matt Skinn and Dan Pearson to give strong input into systems of play and a collaborative atmosphere to the efforts of the staff and players.
  2. Belief – We had to believe in our coaches, systems, players and approach to team culture. This part allows for a willingness to do what is necessary.
  3. Accountability – We had this. It is truly allusive. We had great relationships with each other and still do. This creates a level of trust that gave us the permission we needed to hold each other accountable.
  4. We were having a great time while doing it.

Matias Bueno Matias's Final Thoughts

Speaking with Dan Vanhooren from the Calgary Dinos Men’s Basketball team was a great pleasure. When I was a student-athlete at the University of Calgary and ever since working at Canada West basketball games, I have been able to watch Dan’s philosophy blossom into a staggering amount of success for the Dinos program. His philosophy of developing great young men has shown in the strong reputation that the team has become known for during his tenure. The Dinos not only produce great athletes but great basketball industry professionals and successful men. Dan is an awesome role model for all aspiring university basketball coaches out there.

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