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BU basketball coaches start season on hot seat

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As another season of Brandon University Bobcats basketball begins tonight at the BU gymnasium, two key questions remain unanswered.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/10/2010 (4482 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As another season of Brandon University Bobcats basketball begins tonight at the BU gymnasium, two key questions remain unanswered.

Is Gil Cheung the man to finally stop the revolving door in the Bobcats men’s basketball office?

And is Jaime Taggart’s women’s team finally ready to turn the corner after four frustrating seasons?

We get our first hint at the answers tonight when the Bobcats take to the court against the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack to tip off the Canada West season.

For Cheung, it marks his first regular-season game as the new Bobcats coach, the sixth in the past eight years for a BU men’s program that has been seemingly forever in turmoil since the controversial removal of longtime former coach Jerry Hemmings.

Officially, Cheung is on a 24-month contract after replacing former Bobcat all-Canadian Keith Vassell, whose own two-year term as BU bench boss ended with his resignation last summer after Brandon missed the playoffs for the first time in more than 30 years.

Cheung, who helped lead the Bobcats to national silver medals as team captain in 2000 and 2001, hopes to be here long-term and has already put down some roots, purchasing a home with his Brandon-born fiancee, who gave birth to their first child two weeks ago.

Cheung also kept himself busy in the off-season by recruiting a half dozen newcomers, including an impact import in athletic6-foot-7 Isaiah James, a scoring threat in O’Brian Wallace and the likes of junior college transfer William Caesar to help fill the gaping hole created when veteran point guard Andrew Kraus unexpectedly transferred to another school in mid-August.

And while there is pressure to perform for Cheung, BU athletic director Kirk De Fazio said Cheung will also be given the benefit of the doubt in his first year as he endeavours to put his own stamp on a program that has slipped in recent years from its once-lofty position as a perennial powerhouse.

“I don’t think it’s fair really to put big expectations on him in the first year,” De Fazio said. “I think he’s done quite well, actually, to put a team together, only coming on as of July 1. I certainly have a lot of confidence in him and I like what he’s done so far.”

As for Taggart, it could be a make-or-break season, considering she is up for tenure in the final year of her five-year contract. Her record of six wins and 80 losses over the past four seasons is dismal, to say the least, although doubling her win total with a 3-17 season in 2009-10 offered at least a glimmer of hope. Widely considered an excellent educator on campus, the jury is still out on her ability to recruit and coach.

But with every player now on the Bobcats roster someone that she has recruited, the buck stops with Taggart this season. However, considering she was hired as a 50 per cent coach and 50 per cent professor, how much the wins and losses will affect her pursuit of tenure is anybody’s guess.

“For me, I’m not asking for a nationally-ranked team,” De Fazio said. “Would .500 be acceptable? I would like more (wins) than what we have, but then the question is what number would be OK … Last year, there were easily a number of games that were there for us (to win), so does that mean the players didn’t do it or the coach didn’t do it? So this is an interesting process, that’s for sure … This is the fifth year of her contract and you would like to see it all come together for her.”

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out this season, but for Taggart’s team, one thing is clear: There really is nowhere to go but up.

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