Peter Guarasci has been named the first-ever head coach and general manager of the Fraser Valley Bandits. (UBC-O Sports Information photo)

Fraser Valley Bandits hire head coach, general manager

Kelowna resident Peter Guarasci introduced as CEBL team’s new bench boss

He’s represented Canada on the biggest international basketball stage, and now he’ll be the inaugural man behind the bench of the Fraser Valley Bandits.

The Canadian Elite Basketball League club announced the hiring of Peter Guarasci at a press conference in Vancouver on Tuesday, and he will serve as both the team’s head coach and general manager.

“I am very excited to be part of a league with a mandate to develop the game domestically and provide a podium for Canada’s most exciting generation of professional basketball players,” Guarasci said.

Guarasci wore the red and white of Team Canada alongside NBA superstar Steve Nash back in the 2000 Summer Olympics, and was regarded as an exceptional defensive player during his time on both the international scene, as well as in college.

He played two seasons (1992-94) with the Connecticut-based Fairfield Stags of NCAA Div. 1, and then moved on to play two seasons with the SFU Clan, earning two team most valuable player awards and a nod as an NAIA All-American in 1996 with the Burnaby school.

Following graduation, Guarasci played professionally in Italy and Germany. He went on to represent Canada at a number of international events.

His coaching career began by working on the staff of the Canadian development and junior national teams, and he parlayed that experience into assistant coaching stints with SFU, the University of Alberta and MacEwan University, before serving as head coach of the UBC-O Heat men’s basketball team for the past six years.

Guarasci helped lead the Heat to a school record eight wins in 2015-16, but the club followed that with two years of finishing 2-18 and he was fired from the position last June.

He said he sees great potential in the CEBL.

“Basketball is a growing sport and there are so many players from here playing in the NCAA or overseas,” he said. “There’s tons of potential in this league and I think we’re heading in the right direction to grow the sport.”

Guarasci said he wants to build a team that represents the Fraser Valley in a positive light.

“What I was is players of high character that want to work hard and develop,” he said. “For some of these guys this will be their offseason, so they have to be motivated to develop and entrench themselves in the community at the grassroots level and with the basketball community in Abbotsford.”

He said that he doesn’t think it will be a challenge to find the talent to put the team together.

“I don’t think it’ll be difficult at all because the supply is there,” he said. “We’re finally going to be able to give these Canadian players a league in their own country to be able to play as professionals.”

Guarasci said the CEBL will play a similar style to that of the FIBA. There will be fewer timeouts, more ball movement and player movement and not as much isolation. The Bandits roster will be comprised of seven Canadians, three international players and one development player. The development player will be a post-secondary athlete returning to college in the fall.

He added that he’s excited to be coaching professionals after being involved in the college game for the past few years.

“I feel comfortable with pros and they just know what it takes to train and the commitment levels needed to excel,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing things I was unable to do at the university level, such as using different and more complex tactics on offence and defence.”

Above all, Guarasci said he wants to put together an entertaining team and get Abbotsford and Fraser Valley on board.

“I know the whole area has a rich basketball tradition,” he said. “During my recruiting days, I knew the Fraser Valley is where you go to recruit some of the best athletes in the province. I want to help grow the game in the area, and we want to be a pro team that kids can aspire to be a part of.”

Next on the agenda for the new hire is piecing together the roster before training camp begins in late-April. The Bandits officially tip-off at the Abbotsford Centre on May 9, when the Guelph Nighthawks come to town.

For more on the team, visit thebandits.ca.

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