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The London Lightning have called a press conference for Thursday to announce their new coach.
The Lightning are expected to replace Canadian Kyle Julius with another Canadian, Keith Vassell, a Scarborough native who was the coach of Niagara College in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association.
Vassell also stepped in last year as interim coach for the National Basketball League of Canada’s Niagara River Lions. He took over midway through the season, finishing with a 7-11 record and doing a good job with a team that had plenty of problems.
The Lightning won’t comment on whether Vassell is their guy.
Vassell will be taking charge of the team from the start of the season, unlike his situation with the River Lions where he took over a veteran team put together by another coach.
He did a good job handling a team that was as volatile as it was diverse.
But while he’s coming to a franchise that is stable and ensconced in the community, he’ll have to deal with the success of the previous coach.
Julius coached the team to an NBL title, the Lightning’s third in six years, after a record-setting season. The Lightning finished 35-5 in the regular season and went 11-2 on their way to the title.
Julius was last year’s NBL coach of the year. The Lightning set multiple team and individual records, including the record for most wins in a season and highest-win percentage.
Vassell has a wealth of experience playing and coaching at different levels. He proved his ability to handle veteran players with the River Lions and to ride out what was a tumultuous time with player movements and injuries.
If Vassell is the man, he has an impressive resume.
He spent three years with Niagara College after three years as head coach and player development specialist with the Rock Sports Academy in Toronto.
Vassell was a great player before moving into the coaching ranks.
He played for the Brandon Bobcats in Canadian university from 1991-96. He was named CIS player of the year, a five-time first-team GPAC all-star, and was a member of the 1996 CIS national championship team. Vassell’s jersey was retired by Brandon University at the end of the 1996 season.
Vassell spent 11 seasons playing professional basketball in Spain, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal, during which he was a member of three league championship teams, and was named MVP of the Iceland Premier League in 2000.
He spent 11 seasons, from 1989 to 2000, competing as a member of the national Canadian men’s basketball program and competed for Canada in Olympic qualifying matches, the 1999 Pan-Am Games, the FISU Games, and the World Junior Basketball Championships.
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