By Keith Lacey
Any good coach at any elite level of athletics loves a challenge.
And thatÂ?s a big reason why John Campbell is now the former coach of the Laurentian University Lady Vees basketball team and new coach of the Dalhousie University menÂ?s varsity team in Halifax.
In a move that caught a lot of people by surprise, including good friend and Laurentian athletic director Pete Hellstrom, Campbell was introduced last week as the new head coach at Dalhousie.
Â?This was a really hard decision,Â? Campbell told Northern life in a telephone interview from Halifax. Â?I honestly wasnÂ?t looking to leaveÂ?but this opportunity came up and I applied for the job in early May. I found out about 10 days ago that I was getting the job.Â?
Campbell beat out 40 other applicants from across the country to get the job at Dalhousie.
Campbell said the decision was not only basketball-related, Â?but a life and family decision.Â?
His wife Diane is from the East Coast and Campbell had visited the Maritimes numerous times over the past several years and fell hard for the friendly people and beautiful scenery.
Â?I certainly had an amazing experience at Laurentian the past five years,Â? he said. Â?I got to deal with a lot of great student-athletes and we won a lot of basketball games.
Â?ThatÂ?s why I have such mixed emotions right now. I know the Lady Vees are going to be extremely successful the next couple of years and itÂ?s been tough coming to grips with the fact I wonÂ?t be part of that. On the other hand, this new job is a great opportunity for me.Â?
His wife has been accepted to take her PhD at Dalhousie and this also factored into his decision, said Campbell.
Campbell has his work cut out for him at Dalhousie as the menÂ?s team won only five of 20 games last season.
Â?IÂ?ve certainly been given some time to turn this thing around and I look forward to the challenge,Â? he said.
Campbell is not only leaving behind Sudbury, Laurentian and numerous fine players, but heÂ?s developed some great friendships over the past 15 years and saying goodbye to all those friends is going to be tough, he said.
CampbellÂ?s father Peter was head coach of the menÂ?s basketball program at Laurentian for several years. After several outstanding seasons, Peter Campbell left Laurentian to take over the struggling program at Sir Wilfred Laurier University in southern Ontario two years ago.
Hellstrom said heÂ?s disappointed Campbell is leaving, but happy his good friend has found a new job and new challenge.
Â?By all means weÂ?re going to miss him because heÂ?s done just a terrific job from the first day he was hired,Â? said Hellstrom. Â?Laurentian is a small school and weÂ?re all like family and weÂ?re losing a key member of our family.Â?
Opportunities to sign long-term contracts in Canadian university basketball Â?are few and far betweenÂ? and Campbell is making a decision to further his career and deserves credit for that, said Hellstrom.
Â?John was straightforward and up front to me about applying for the Dalhousie job,Â? he said. Â?When I found out heÂ?d got the job I wasnÂ?t too happy because weÂ?re losing a great coach, but you have to be happy for him.Â?
Campbell leaves the Lady Vees in great shape as all 11 players from last year are returning, said Hellstrom.
A nationwide search for a new coach is already underway and Hellstrom doesnÂ?t feel there will be any lack of qualfied candidates as the Lady Vees program is recognized as one of the best anywhere in Canada. Hellstrom hopes to name a new Lady Vees head coach within four to six weeks.
During his five years in charge, Campbell, 33, compiled a tremendous record of success, including two Ontario University Association (OUA) championships and playoff appearances every season.
This past season, the Lady Vees were the second-ranked team in Canada compiling a 17-0 record, before things fell apart down the stretch in losing their final three games and their first-round playoff game.
Campbell was recognized for his coaching ability as winner of OUA Coach of the Year three times.