Coach’s sights set on return to glory days

Rebuilding Bisons starts with new paint


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Kirby Schepp has been fixing up the Bisons men's basketball team's change room: A little fresh paint on the walls and engraved name bars on the players' stalls.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/01/2010 (4801 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Kirby Schepp has been fixing up the Bisons men’s basketball team’s change room: A little fresh paint on the walls and engraved name bars on the players’ stalls.

About eight months into his job as head coach and halfway through his first Canada West conference season with a 4-11 record, Schepp is putting his touch on the University of Manitoba program.

"I was a painter in another life," laughed Schepp, 35, "Fixing things up, I guess that’s a pretty good analogy to use for what I’m doing around here.

"We’ve definitely had a good start on that, the culture is changing in some ways but that’s going to take some time. But we’ve got high-character individuals who have responded really well and I’m pretty proud of the way they’ve handled all that."

Schepp became the first new basketball coach in the men’s program in 25 years when he replaced Rick Suffield on April 29, 2009.

Because of that late hiring, Schepp was not able to recruit players from what was considered the strongest class in a decade of graduating players from Manitoba high schools. He brought in a couple of guys but mostly asked the players already there to join him in bring up the Bisons’ profile.

Schepp joked that he and the Bisons are "a bit of a motley crew of unrecruited cast-offs" who just "get out there and play." The goal is to make the Canada West conference playoffs for the first time since 2003-2004.

"All of them have bounced around a few places and I put myself in that boat too," said Schepp, noting he had in the past applied for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen and Brandon Bobcats head coach positions and didn’t get either. "My big thing is I want our guys to feel like they are part of something that’s bigger than this year."

The Bisons, one of the smallest teams in stature in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport, have created their own style of play with lots of shooting and high-tempo execution. Outside shooters Eric Garcia and Nathan Dixon are among the nation’s best as Garcia is sixth in the CIS in three-point baskets with a 47.1 shooting percentage and Dixon is averaging 17.3 points per game, sitting 21st in the CIS.

"It was tough to have a coaching change heading into my last year, and I wasn’t happy about it at first, but Kirby’s doing everything right," said Dixon, 22, a fifth-year guard. Dixon was recruited by Suffield for his final two years of eligibility after playing three years of junior college. "I’d like to see us keep the local talent here… players have wanted to go elsewhere because of the past history (losing records and not making the playoffs). If we can improve our record and make the playoffs this year, that will help Kirby in recruiting for the future."

Schepp is a graduate of John Taylor Collegiate (1992) who played for the Wesmen in 1993-1996 until then-coach Bill Wedlake cut him. Schepp began coaching the next season as an assistant to Wedlake.

He said it’s those kinds of bonds he plans to forge in the Bisons program.

"Bill still likes to remind me that he cut me! He still likes to talk about it," Schepp said laughing.

"We want to get some of that Bisons tradition to be more prominent here. We’re long removed from the 1976 national championship and we need to get some of that back."

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