The right Manigat for the job
Brock’s newest men’s basketball coach is pursuing his lifelong dream.
“I knew I wanted to be a coach since I was about 17, dating back to when I was being coached by my University of Ottawa coach James Derouin at the club level,” Willy Manigat said.
“He was an inspired coach and he would take me into his office before our club practices and I would pick up on things. He told me I was a smart player and I had a knack for picking things up on film that people my age normally didn’t. He told me I had an eye and a mind for basketball.”
After a playing career at Ottawa and Carleton that saw him win three national titles at the latter school, the 31-year-old Montreal native joined Carleton’s coaching staff.
“There were a few schools that I would have left Carleton for because, at the end of the day, Carleton has been the best program in the country for the past 17 years, winning 14 of 17,” he said. “It is not an easy feat and to leave a situation like that, especially when you have reached the stature of being the lead assistant.”
That move after a decade at Carleton became easier when the Brock job became vacant.
“It had to be the right job where you feel it is the best opportunity for growth and to build something that is sustainable and can have success,” Manigat said. “I thought Brock and the Niagara Region for the most part is a hidden gem and people don’t realize how good this region can be and the potential it has.”
He feels his vision is what made him the right choice for the Brock job.
“I have been around the best program in the country since 2008 and that’s over a decade of being around success,” he said. “You learn what success is and how to get it.”
His vision is only part of what makes him a good coach.
“I don’t think you will meet any coach, even at my young age, that understands this job as much as I do because I have been preparing for it longer than most coaches. I didn’t stumble into this. This is something I have prepared my whole life for and I knew this was the end goal.”
He feels he is the “ the most competitive guy you have ever met.”
His goals are to make the Brock Badgers a nationally-recognized program in terms of always competing for provincial championships and eventually national championships, but to also help the Niagara community really blossom and reach its potential.
“People often forget that outside of Carleton, this is the only OUA (Ontario University Athletics) or Ontario team that has won a national championship during Carleton’s reign.”
He describes his coaching philosophy as a workman’s attitude.
“You lace your boots up every day and you go to work,” Manigat said. “You have to put your hard hat on and there’s no shortcuts. You do what you need to do and you build the foundation and the culture that you need.”
His team’s style of play will be based on the personnel available,
“You have to adapt to the personnel that you have but the one thing for sure that I want to establish is anybody who comes to a Brock Badgers men’s basketball game, when they leave that game, I want them to know that the team put everything out there on the floor as if it was the most important game of the season.”
Manigat is hoping to implement his vision quickly.
“It will be a transition year, but I don’t like to throw out words like transition and process,” he said. “Every team makes their season what they make of it and as long as everyone on the team buys into our plan and what we can do, then the sky’s the limit.”
He cites plenty of examples of unheralded teams finding success.
“When the Vegas Golden Knights made it to the NHL finals, no one envisioned that and you see that year in and year out all over the world at different levels of sport.”
The former associate head coach at Ottawa prep school Canada Topflight Academy and former elite coach with the Ottawa Youth Basketball Association agrees he is late to the recruiting process this season, but still thinks he can add to his roster this summer.
“I have relationships with clubs all over the country and that is one of the advantages of coaching at a nation-wide prep school and coaching at the club level all over the country,” he said. “Coaching AAU basketball over the years, I know a lot of people and the beauty is when I got the job people called me.”
He’s confident that those past relationships will pay off.
“I am still hoping that we can pick up some pieces that will help us in the future and fix the gaps that we have right now.”
His first steps are to hire his lead assistant, fill out the rest of his coaching staff, get in the gym with his team and figure out the Niagara community and Brock University.
“Finding trusted help and people you want to work with is high on the priority list and the rest will take care of itself.”
Manigat wants to have his lead assistant hired within the next two weeks.
Brock has won both of its previous national championships by having talented local players on its roster. Manigat knows developing and retaining talent in Niagara will be crucial in any success he has on the court.
“The goal is to control your backyard and to do that you want to help those players develop and build those relationships so down the line when they have to make the decision between you and another program, that they stay at home.”
Brock had an 18-9 record last season and reached the Ontario Universities Athletics Wilson Cup final four for a second consecutive year.