By Josh Hui
A former NAIT men’s basketball player returns to lead the Ooks following Mike Connolly’s move to MacEwan University.
Slav Kornik replaces Connolly after a search that lasted nearly two months. Connolly aided in the hiring process and is confident in the future of the men’s basketball program.
“Slav is a perfect fit for NAIT at this time. With the transition of the athletics department, Slav Kornik is a great pick to take over the head coaching duties at NAIT. I fully supported Slav’s application for head coach – I think he will be great with the returning guys and he will shape the program into his own and will put his own stamp on it,” said Connolly.
Kornik not only has plenty of coaching experience, he also has experience coaching multiple current NAIT Ooks players. Jamal Hinds, Karnakshpal Toor and both Kade and Logan Pease have all played for the new Ooks coach before they arrived at NAIT.
Kornik was also a part of two ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) championships and was captain of the 2002-2003 national championship team where he was named MVP of the tournament. He shined under former NAIT Ooks and current Mount Royal Cougars head coach Marc Dobell, who he said is his favourite coach from his playing days.
“He was the most dedicated coach I’d been around at that point so he taught me what commitment and dedication is like and I loved it. He taught me a lot, not just X’s and O’s but with being committed to the game, putting together a program and the amount of time it takes… it helped to develop who I am,” said Kornik.
When Slav Kornik was a NAIT radio and television student, being men’s basketball head coach was never in his plans. Now, he describes his new role as his dream job.
“I didn’t expect this to happen ten, fifteen years ago but once I started getting into coaching and pursuing it more and more… I thought one day of coming back here. It’s an unbelievable feeling to be back with the program as head coach,” said Kornik.
After graduating from NAIT, Kornik began working as a reporter at Global News but also decided to pursue coaching, which proved to be a difficult transition from his time as a player.
“It is your ability to work with people, work with athletes, communicate, that sort of thing… There’s just a whole big part of basketball that as a player you learn some of it, but you don’t have to understand it quite to the depth you do as a coach,” said Kornik.
Kornik spent multiple years coaching high school basketball, including three years as the senior boys head coach at Strathcona High School. He also coached for Team Alberta four times with two of those years as the head coach of the 15U boys team. He gained further coaching experience at the Alberta Basketball Association’s Centre for Performance and Targeted Training Program.
Kornik got a taste of coaching at the post-secondary level the past couple years under Barnaby Craddock at the University of Alberta. Craddock is the only head coach in U Sports history to take three separate teams to a national championship and Kornik has learned a lot from the experienced coach.
“Getting to work with him closely and get an understanding of how he puts together a program, practices, game strategy, in-game adjustments and scouting… I can’t say enough about the experience. Without it I probably wouldn’t be here,” said Kornik.
How does Kornik describe himself as a coach?
“I like to think I’m a really committed coach… I’m a hard-working guy who’s trying to learn the game, I care a lot about my athletes, I want the best for them academically and on the basketball court and I want athletes who are gonna be dedicated to the program, who want to come [to NAIT] and get an education.”
Kornik’s basketball journey started long before post-secondary, though.
“I started following my brothers, then I started playing on a community team, I played in junior high at Sir John Thompson and then went on to [Archbishop] O’Leary and had some good success,” said Kornik.
While in high school, Kornik won a city championship as a member of the O’Leary Spartans while being named an all-star twice and league MVP. He came to NAIT while also having the chance to play on the U19 provincial team. Kornik was not the tallest player on the court, but it was the spirit and determination he played with which made him successful.
Kornik says he’ll miss his time as a reporter but he looks forward to transferring his skills from the newsroom to the bench.