THE good news for newly-appointed University of Winnipeg Wesmen men's basketball coach Mike Raimbault is there is nowhere for the program to go but up.
Raimbault, 28, was introduced on Tuesday as the new head coach of the Wesmen, a team that went 19 games last season without a win but managed to eke out a victory in its final contest.
"I think it's an exciting situation," said Raimbault, a Brandon native who came from a program in Prince George, B.C. with nearly the reverse record as he coached the 17-1 Northern British Columbia Timberwolves to the Canadian College Athletic Association national championship last month and was named the CCAA men's basketball coach of the year. Raimbault acknowledged that "last year was a difficult year for everyone involved in the (Wesmen) program.
"But at the same time there's definitely the potential to get things moving back in the right direction," he said. "We have a great facility, great support within the athletic department and as we move forward, I am expecting to start the turnaround. I'm confident we'll be able to get top quality student athletes here that can help us have the success we're looking to go after."
Raimbault replaced Dave Crook who resigned from the Wesmen position on Jan. 12 after nine years when the team was facing an 0-11 record.
Raimbault was expected to be a candidate for the Brandon University men's basketball coaching job, which came open last month when Keith Vassell stepped down after just two years in the post. Raimbault, a former Bobcat, had led Bobcats to a 20-2 record as interim coach in 2007-08 but was passed over in favour of Vassell.
"It hasn't been an easy (situation) obviously. Brandon's home and my family's there and it's been a tough situation because of a lot of those things," he said. "But, at the same time, looking at the way things did happen I'm happy that I've been able to turn things around and keep moving my coaching career forward."
At U of W, that forward motion will now include the chance to compete against the BU program that is searching for its fourth men's basketball coach in five years.
In other U of W announcements at Tuesday's press conference, Grant Richter was introduced as the director of athletic program development and community liason. It is a new position created for Richter, who was the Wesmen interim coach last season after Crook's departure and an unsuccessful finalist for the head coach job.
Athletic director Doran Reid said the U of W is pursuing expansion of the Wesmen programs as early as 2011-2012. Foremost in the plans are soccer and wrestling, but the U of W is also considering cross-country running and track and field.