Rawlyk looks back on his three BRIT cham­pi­onships

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - DAR­REN ZARY [email protected]­

It’s an in­cred­i­ble stat.

While Saska­toon has won only six Bed­ford Road In­vi­ta­tional Tour­na­ment (BRIT) ti­tles in 50 years, Barry Rawlyk was part of three of those as head coach of the Holy Cross Cru­saders.

“I’ve never re­ally thought of that,” said Rawlyk, now the head coach of the Uni­ver­sity of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s bas­ket­ball squad, in an in­ter­view this week.

Rawlyk re­mem­bers all three of those elu­sive BRIT cham­pi­onship ti­tles. All of them were “very dif­fer­ent and unique sit­u­a­tions,” he said.

“I never re­ally looked at it as a se­ries of three times,” said Rawlyk, who was hon­oured as the spe­cial guest dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­monies of this year’s 51st BRIT edi­tion, which wraps up Satur­day in Saska­toon.

“We were for­tu­nate to have a lot of good play­ers to be able to do that, string to­gether some re­ally good per­for­mances there. There are lots of mem­o­rable times when we didn’t win, too.”

Even so, Rawlyk has had a hand in 50 per cent of Saska­toon’s cham­pi­onships and no­body from Saska­toon can say the same, as long­time BRIT vol­un­teer and en­thu­si­ast Kelly Bow­ers knows too well.

“This year’s spe­cial guest is very, very de­serv­ing,” Bow­ers said of Rawlyk, who was a guest speaker at the an­nual BRIT break­fast Fri­day morn­ing.

“An out­stand­ing coach.” In­deed, Rawlyk was named the BRIT coach of the tour­na­ment a record four times.

As a high school stu­dent, Rawlyk played for the E.D. Fee­han Tro­jans and got to play in the BRIT once. He spent a cou­ple of decades as a coach in the Saska­toon high school ranks with most of that time spent at Saska­toon’s Holy Cross High School be­fore a trans­fer to St. Joseph High School.

“They’re ob­vi­ously dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives,” said Rawlyk, com­par­ing his BRIT ex­pe­ri­ence as coach and player. “I guess, as a coach, I had a much broader scope of ex­pe­ri­ence there, so I’d have to say as a coach, prob­a­bly, I en­joyed the BRIT (more).”


Rawlyk said there were a lot of “spe­cial mo­ments” that hap­pened dur­ing his time at the BRIT.

One of his favourite mo­ments is still stored on a VHS tape back at home.

Rawlyk fondly re­mem­bers the second time Holy Cross won the BRIT. The Cru­saders won their first ti­tle in 1997. Their second cham­pi­onship came six years later in 2003.

“I re­mem­ber when we won it again, the gym was packed and I re­mem­ber all the Holy Cross fans just flood­ing the floor — it was just pan­de­mo­nium,” said Rawlyk.

“It was a great mo­ment in high school sport. You don’t see too of­ten that level of en­thu­si­asm. It was a re­ally hotly con­tested game and the re­ac­tion of the fans was pretty good. I think I have it on an old VHS tape some­where, still from the Shaw TV broad­cast. I just re­mem­ber look­ing at that and go­ing, ‘Wow, that was quite a re­sponse.’ It was kind of a spon­ta­neous rush­ing of the floor.”

An­other BRIT mem­ory that stands out for Rawlyk is a loss to a team from Bri­tish Columbia.

“We had the game won,” said Rawlyk, still shak­ing his head, “and ended up los­ing.”

With a few sec­onds left in the game, a Holy Cross player got a steal and went for a suc­cess­ful layup to put the Cru­saders up by three points.

It left three sec­onds or so on the clock.

The B.C. team came down the court and pulled vic­tory from the jaws of defeat.

“I knew it was go­ing to hap­pen; I could feel it hap­pen­ing,” said Rawlyk. “Their guy was over by the score ta­ble — he was on the side­line; we had him trapped on the side­line — and he lit­er­ally jumped into the air, threw the ball up and he landed on the score ta­ble. I was stand­ing right be­side him and I thought, ‘Yep, that’s go­ing in.’ The ball went in, a three-pointer, to send the game into over­time and we lost in over­time.”

How­ever, Rawlyk would later nail a triple of his own. For the Cru­saders, it’s three BRIT ti­tles and count­ing.

The key to the BRIT hat trick? “The sup­port of the school and the fans — and a lot of good luck,” he said. “You’ve got to be lucky to be good and good to be lucky. We were for­tu­nate, but at the end of the day, I put it on the play­ers. We had a lot of good play­ers.”

We were for­tu­nate ... to be able to do that, string to­gether some re­ally good per­for­mances.


Barry Rawlyk, head coach of the Uni­ver­sity of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s bas­ket­ball team, pre­vi­ously es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion as an out­stand­ing high school coach in Saska­toon, win­ning three Bed­ford Road In­vi­ta­tional Tour­na­ment ti­tles with the Holy Cross Cru­saders.

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