New faces at helm of Muskie hoops teams

Lucas Punkari

When the next season of NorWOSSA junior and senior boys’ basketball gets underway Dec. 21 in Dryden, both Muskie teams will be run by former assistant coaches who have moved up into the head roles
This year’s senior squad will be coached by former Muskie player Bryce Coyle, who was an assistant with last year’s league champs, while the junior hoopsters will be led by Jeff Vandahl.
For Coyle, who is taking over the reins from Paul Noonan, the transition process into the head coaching role has been made easier by the fact the team already is set for the upcoming season.
“The tryout process was only a couple of days, actually, as we had a dozen guys come out so we didn’t have to make any cuts,” Coyle explained.
“I was kind of hoping for that, to be honest, as that has allowed us to get into what we want to do as team a little bit more as we have got into some of our offence and our inbound plays this week.
“We’re just going to keep moving forward, and I think this might put us ahead of the game when it comes to where the other teams are in the league at this point,” he stressed.
Four players from last year’s NorWOSSA championship squad (Tim Metke, Caleb McIntosh, Harley Mainville, and Will Anderson) are returning for this season while Gavin Moorhouse is back after taking a year off last season in his Grade 11 year.
“Four of our starting five players will be the returning players, which I think is going to be really good,” Coyle enthused.
“And of those guys that are new to the senior ranks, they have already had a lot of experience playing in the junior ranks, so they are already familiar with a lot of the stuff that we are going to have in our playbook,” he noted.
Coyle, who played as a guard with the black-and-gold for five years, said the type of team he likes to field will be similar in some ways to what he was like as a player.
“When I played, one of things that I was big on was with the defensive side of the ball,” he explained. “And last year that was one of the things that myself and Paul shared a similar philosophy on.
“I would look for us to play really hard-nosed on defence. And we have another athletic team here this year, so I expect that we are going to be pushing the tempo of the game, as well.”
Prior to the regular season getting underway against the host Eagles, the black-and-gold will play some exhibition games next Tuesday against a couple of U.S. teams at Rainy River Community College in International Falls before taking hosting a tournament here Dec. 9-10.
In the junior boys’ camp, meanwhile, Vandahl expected to determine his final 15-man roster today after whittling down the training roster from 30 to 20 following the first week of practice last week.
 “The number of players that came out was better than I had originally anticipated,” he enthused.
“Whenever you can have that many players come out, especially with nearly half of those players being in Grade 9, I think it really shows that the guys have quite an interest in playing basketball here,” he added.
Vandahl, who is originally from Thunder Bay before moving here to teach at Fort High, will be in his second year with the team after being an assistant coach with Greg Ste. Croix last season.
He feels the transition to becoming a bench boss will be a smooth one.
“I learned a lot from Greg last year, and I’ve been working on a lot with Bryce [Coyle] in bouncing a few ideas back and forth with one another, so I think it will end up going pretty well,” he reasoned.
Vandahl played high school basketball at Hillcrest in Thunder Bay, and will be drawing on that experience—along with his time as an assistant coach—to set about building the team he wants to field.
“Personally, I like it when a team uses the physical side of the game to their advantage,” he remarked.
“Defensive play and rebounding is really important to me, and I think that we have the type of players here to have a team that can do that, especially with the Grade 9 players that have come out,” he added.
The juniors will be getting their first action of the season here next weekend as the host team of a tournament at Fort High.