Manny Furtado said he accepted an assistant coaching job with the Carleton Ravens with an eye on one day assuming the reins of a university basketball squad of his own.
On Friday that chance came.
Furtado, 36, was named the head coach of the Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s team, stepping into the shoes of long-time coach Scott Morrison , who’s leaving to become the coach of the NBA Development League’s Maine Red Claws.
Furtado said he went to Carleton to learn from the best.
Two national championships later under coach Dave Smart and he was headed to Ontario’s northwest, where the pressure will be on to return the Thunderwolves program to national prominence, just two seasons removed from a fourth straight trip to the national championship tournament.
The Hamilton native says he sees plenty of similarities between himself and Morrison, a coach he helped defeat in the 2013 CIS championship game.
“I think Scott and I are similar in a way that we’ve got to take care of our guys. That relationship with our players is very key and I hope to continue that with these guys here, that relationship,” Furtado said, introduced to his players and the media on Friday.
“From the perspective on the team, I think defensively we’re going to tighten up some things. The big thing with learning from other systems is defence wins championships. We’re going to be defensive-minded. We’re going to try to win the rebounding battle every game and then hopefully we give ourselves a better chance down the stretch.”
He knows what the expectations will be in Thunder Bay, though he cautioned not to expect too much, too fast from a team that finished 9-13 a year ago, fourth in the OUA West.
They’ll be joining a revamped OUA Central in 2014-15, alongside Brock, Guelph and McMaster and Furtado admitted it will be a process.
“Getting to know these guys, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, coaching and getting together on the same page as a coaching staff, we’re going to take it one day at a time,” Furtado said.
“We’re going to enjoy the process. The one thing I will share is our guys are going to come in and work hard every day.
“Come the end of the year, hopefully we’ll put ourselves in the best situation possible to maybe get into an OUA championship and contend for a national title.”
Lakehead athletic director Tom Warden said turning to the Carleton Ravens for their next coach was also a no-brainer.
Furtado came highly recommended, Wardens added.
“He again is a guy with work ethic and he’s got that fire in his belly and that passion. He doesn’t have that extensive history coaching at the CIS, but I think he’s got a lot of potential. The fact that he’s worked with Joe Raso and the fact that he’s worked with Dave Smart – coming from that program is important and learning some of the things that you learn there just by being there are incredibly important.”
Veteran forward Anthony McIntosh said he’ll miss Morrison, but is ready to get back to work under a new bench boss.
Change is good, he said.
“Manny having that experience is definitely a positive thing. We can learn and take a lot from him and his experience with the Carleton team. I think it’s a really big opportunity from him to step into the driver’s seat and definitely an even bigger opportunity for us to learn from what he has at Carleton.”
The Wolves are expected to scrimmage against Winnipeg on Aug. 29 and 30 at the Thunderdome.
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