Novell Thomas spent his first full day in Brandon on Tuesday, but the new head coach of the Brandon University Bobcats women’s basketball team has already been busy trying to improve the squad for the last two months.
Since Feb. 3, the day after he was hired, Thomas has been in contact with his players and members of the Bobcats athletic department. He has also spent every weekend recruiting players or working them out in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
While he was happy to get a head start on his new job, Thomas was glad to finally arrive in Brandon.
"I’m happy to be here physically and see the players," said Thomas, who was introduced to the community at a meet-and-greet session yesterday afternoon at BU. "I can see all the names that I’ve been e-mailing with. … It’s good to be here and I think every week that I’m here I’ll feel at home. Once I get the whole family out here and a place to live and in the daily routine of coaching and teaching, I’ll be in my element."
In addition to getting to know his current players, Thomas is looking at rounding out his roster with players who can fill different roles. He’s looking at recruiting a few American imports, some to bring a little more experience to a young Bobcat team that went 0-20 this past season.
He’s hoping to have some recruits signed by the end of the month.
Thomas knows wins may not come right away, but he’s focused on doing the things that will lead to victories in the future by changing the team’s culture.
"The biggest thing is expectations and accountability. Those are two words I keep going back to," said Thomas, a former member of Canada’s national men’s basketball team. "I think the players, from the goal-setting exercise we have done, I think it’s time for us to start acting differently and thinking differently and going after what we want. I think the players all want to improve that reputation and start being respected a bit more. We’ll do things to reach those marks and accomplish those goals."
Brandonite Aimee Johnston, a first-year Bobcat forward who led the team in scoring, is impressed with Thomas’ attitude and thinks he’ll be a good fit for the team.
"He seems like a really good guy," she said. "I’m happy we have him committed to the program. He comes off as trustworthy. He really knows his stuff. His career history shows he has experience playing the game and it’s really exciting to have him on board.
"He seems like a very positive person and committed to the program, which is a huge thing for us. We need someone who’s willing to stay here and work with us and keep with us through the bad and the good."
Thomas, who is bringing Bobcat grad Sarah Lopes back as an assistant coach, knows there will be a lot of changes to get used to in Brandon, including the weather.
The 36-year-old moved from B.C. and is used to overcast skies and lots of rain, but he enjoyed the open sky and bright sun that was out during his first day in Brandon. Now he is working to have the clouds hanging over the Bobcat women’s basketball program disappear to create sunny days in the future.
"I hope so," he said. "I think if we take care of things we need to take care of and take a calculated approach to things, we can expect brighter days."