Edmonton’s new professional basketball team has hired a familiar face to the local basketball scene as its first head coach.
University of Alberta Golden Bears head coach Barnaby Craddock is taking the reigns as the Edmonton Stingers’ coach.
“It was an exciting opportunity, one that you can’t say no to,” Craddock said.
“Professional basketball is something I got a chance to play but I had to chase it over to Europe and now to be able to have Canadian guys have that opportunity here, see the community of level get high-level professional basketball, it’s just great to be part of it.”
Craddock will remain as the Golden Bears coach, while he begins to build a roster for the Stingers’ inaugural season in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).
“I talked to U of A and they were fantastic about it, and the meat and potatoes for our two seasons are separate,” he said.
He is the only USports men’s head coach to lead three separate universities to the men’s national championship. During the past five years at the U of A, Craddock has led the men’s team to two Canada West Conference titles, three national tournament appearances, one of which saw the Bears capture a bronze medal.
The Bears are making a run at another conference title as they host the UBC Thunderbirds this week in the Canada West semis. Craddock said he got the go-ahead from the university and he will be able to balance both positions with some help.
“We’ve got some people in place doing the GM work and player personnel stuff for the Stingers,” he said. “So right now I’m working for the Golden Bears and our national tournament, if we make it that far, is in the first week of March, so we have lots of time until the start of the basketball season for the Stingers.”
The CEBL features six teams across the country and the season will run from May to August. The league will also have teams in Saskatoon, Hamilton, Niagara, Guelph and Fraser Valley.
Each team will have a 12-player roster, with a Canadian-player quota similar to the CFL, and a mandate to have at least one of those spots filled by a USports player.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of Canadian professional guys coming back from Europe, coming back from the NBL, coming from the [NBA] G League,” Craddock said.
“Obviously, the guys in the NBA are a little too busy, but everything else is on board and the talent level is going to be super high.”
The Stingers will play a total of 20 regular-season games, including 10 home games which will be played at the Expo Centre.
Their first game will be at the Expo Centre on May 10 against the Niagara River Lions.
Edmonton has had professional basketball teams previously — most recently the Edmonton Energy — that have faltered. Craddock believes the steps have already been taken to make sure the CEBL is a success in the city.
“The vision seems different to me. We’ve got the management team overseeing the whole outlook. It seems on a completely different level professional-wise. I think it’s apples and oranges,” he said.
“They’ve got their model in place. I think it’s a brilliant model.”
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