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Head coach Nogic's unexplained exodus from TRU prompts Olynyk's return to bench

Neither side is talking details after a Canada West coaching change at Thompson Rivers University, a move that comes on the brink of the regular season.
Head Coach Goran Nogic_4932
Goran Nogic, hired in May of 2019, is no longer head coach of the TRU WolfPack women's basketball team.

Neither side is talking details after a Canada West coaching change at Thompson Rivers University, a move that comes on the brink of the regular season.

The WolfPack on Monday reintroduced former athletics and recreation director Ken Olynyk, who was named head coach of the women’s basketball team.

Olynyk, the institution's athletics director from 2003 to 2018, is a Kamloops resident and succeeds Goran Nogic, the Serbian bench boss who was hired in May of 2019.

"Right of this moment, I can’t [comment],” Nogic told KTW when asked why he is no longer coaching the team. “But for sure you will have the big story in the future. Right now, I can’t. Sorry about that.”

Curtis Atkinson, director of athletics and recreation for TRU, said the WolfPack wishes to respect the privacy of all involved and will not be commenting on specific staffing decisions.

He was asked if the decision not to comment comes after advice from lawyers.

“No,” he said. “It’s really just university staffing matters that we don’t want to make any comment on. That’s where we’ll be leaving it at this point.

“Given we’re trying to move this forward and think we have a really strong leader to do that with, that’s where we’ll focus and I don’t anticipate anything further on that part.”

The WolfPack are slated to begin regular season Canada West play on Oct. 29, when UNBC comes to town.

TRU was in pre-season action on Saturday, Oct. 16, in Cowtown, falling 70-55 to the Manitoba Bisons in Calgary Cup action.

Nogic is listed on the game sheet as the WolfPack’s head coach, but he was not with the team, said Atkinson, who noted Nogic was most recently with the squad last week.

“It did happen pretty fast and Ken was certainly at the top of my list,” Atkinson said.

Prior to Nogic’s arrival, the WolfPack were 104-189 in U Sports play and had been eliminated in Round 1 in each of their five post-season appearances.

TRU, which was 4-20 and missed the playoffs in 2018-2019, recorded a 7-13 record in 2019-2020, Nogic’s first season at the helm, and was bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

His animated, tough-love coaching style was notable.

The pandemic wiped out the 2020-2021 Canada West basketball campaign, but Nogic kept busy by building his roster, bringing in numerous new recruits.

Press releases detailed the additions of local high school prospects, players from the Coast who had success at provincial championships and the backcourt of the future, including Serbian Danijela Kovačević, only the second international recruit in program history and the first from outside North America.

How will this coaching change affect Nogic’s recruits?

“It certainly isn’t the first time this has happened at any level of competitive sport, where for a variety of reasons there can be a change of leadership,” Atkinson said.

“I know there is going to be this feeling of uncertainty, initially, but I think we have an incredible opportunity with Ken. If there’s ever a coach to do that with, boy, I would go with Ken Olynyk any day of the week.”

Nogic succeeded Scott Reeves, who had been head coach of the WolfPack women’s basketball team since 2006.

Olynyk and Joe Enevoldson ran the team on an interim basis during its inaugural U Sports season in 2005-2006.

"I love this school and I'm excited to once again have the opportunity to work with the outstanding student-athletes at TRU," Olynyk, the father of NBA star Kelly Olynyk, said in a TRU press release.

Olynyk has 25 seasons of head coaching experience at the U Sports level, most recently in 2018-2019 with the UBC Okanagan Heat men’s basketball team on an interim basis.

Atkinson said the move is still fresh, so feedback from players has been limited.

“Any time there is a change in leadership, there is always a little bit of uncertainty. The players and Ken will be working hard this week to get up to speed with each other,” Atkinson said.

“Ken’s a guy who loves the game, loves the school, loves the program. He’s so credible and has such a steady hand.”