Published: March 06, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: March 07, 2012 11:11 AM
After guiding the Heat through its first season of CIS competition, Darren Semeniuk has decided to step down as head coach of the UBC Okanagan men's basketball team.
Semeniuk spent seven seasons at the helm of the program, the last two years in a full-time role as the Heat made its transition into the Canada West conference.
He will remain under contract with UBCO until August, as the Heat begins its search for a new head coach.
Semeniuk, who was on a two-year leave from the teaching profession, felt it was time to devote more time to his family and three children, aged nine, seven and five.
"The first five years (with the men's team), I was still teaching and that was my job, so the coaching was more like a hobby for me," said Semeniuk. "When you become full-time, it's one of those jobs where you can pour as much energy as you want into it, the game tape, recruiting…there are so many things, there's a big commitment there.
"It can be hard to disconnect from it," he added. "With my kids being as busy as they are, I was being pulled back and forth between the two. I'm ready for a break now, to coach them and be with them more."
When Semeniuk took over a struggling men's basketball program in 2005-06—then the Okanagan University College Lakers—the rebuilding process began.
The team made the playoffs in each of the following six seasons, winning three provincials medals, including gold in 2009, and made three consecutive trips to nationals.
Heat athletic director Rob Johnson said Semeniuk's body of work over seven seasons is to be commended—both on and off the court.
"I think Darren has done a really good job for us," said Johnson. "He brought integrity to the job, because it was really about coaching the student-athlete. He wanted his teams to compete as hard as possible on the court, on his terms, but he also wanted excellence in the classroom. He wanted high achieving people. I have a lot of good things to say about Darren and his time here."
A player at the Canada West level in the mid to late 1990s with the University of Alberta, Semeniuk knew the move to the CIS wouldn't be an easy one for the Heat.
Still, with a 3-15 record in their inaugural season of 2011-12, Semeniuk feels like the UBCO men's team is off to a positive start.
"On paper, we weren't supposed to beat anybody," he said. "We didn't have any guys with CIS experience, so that was a big step. But we had guys who liked to compete and go hard in practise, and they gave it all they had. We were happy to get three wins, they all came at home. They guys showed that they knew what it took to compete at this level."
Semeniuk will remain on until the end of the summer to assist the Heat in its transition to a new head coach, and a future that he believes is very bright.
"I think the program and the school are in really good shape," Semeniuk said. "With the UBC name, we're attracting kids from all over the country. We have great facilities and great support on campus.
"I was fortunate to be part of this, I've worked with a lot of really good people. I'm excited about helping out over the next few months and seeing the program move forward. As soon as they appoint a new head coach, that will be more big step."
Semeniuk, who last taught at KSS during the 2009-10 school year, hopes to return to the teaching profession this fall in a full-time capacity.
Even with his departure, the Semeniuk name remains firmly connected to Heat basketball. His mom, Heather, and brother, Marc, will be back in 2012-13 as coaches of the women's team.