By Orrin Farries
NAIT Athletics has finished an extensive interviewing process to fill the 10 open head coaching positions for all of NAIT’s sports teams. This marks the beginning of the department’s new financial model which aims to improve the student-athlete experience at NAIT.
“Hiring ten coaches is a lot of work,” said Jordan Richey, NAIT Athletics Manager. “But [now], we have a mixture of experienced coaches and first time coaches that are hungry to prove themselves.”
NAIT Ooks 2021-2022 Head Coaches
Women’s Volleyball – Erminia Russo Thorpe
Men’s Volleyball – Jordan Taylor
Women’s Hockey – Brendan Jensen
Men’s Hockey – Scott Fellnermayr
Women’s Basketball – Todd Warnick
Men’s Basketball – Jordan Baker
Women’s Soccer – Jeff Paulus
Men’s Soccer – Charles O’Toole
Curling – Karynn Flory
Badminton – Sinead Cheah
There are some familiar names. Todd Warnick, who has been a rock for the women’s basketball program, will return for his 11th year at the helm.
“We are thrilled to have Todd return to coach our women’s basketball program,” said Richey.
“He will be counted on to provide coaching wisdom to our new coaches.”
Charles O’Toole, the veteran men’s soccer coach and interim women’s coach following the retirement of Carole Holt in 2020, has agreed to the head coaching position for the men’s soccer team.
“Charles has made the [men’s soccer] program into a national powerhouse. We are in contention every year with him coaching our program,” said Richey.
He is joined in the soccer program by Jeff Paulus, an old colleague and friend. Paulus was NAIT’s men’s soccer coach from 2004-2012 and won the 2011 CCAA men’s national championship with O’Toole as his lead assistant coach.
“[Paulus] was very interested in returning to NAIT Athletics,” said Richey. “He really wants to mentor female coaches as well, and plans on bringing top level assistant female coaches to the program
Paulus is well known in the Edmonton soccer circles as the coach of FC Edmonton in the Canadian Premier League. Paulus coached FC Edmonton from 2018 until September of 2020, and was named their interim GM in November of 2019.
Sinead Cheah returns as the head coach of the badminton program, having built a name qualifying athletes for Nationals.
Erminia Russo Thorpe, a former Olympic athlete and women’s volleyball coach at UBC, returns to the program she left behind in 2012 as the head coach of the women’s volleyball team.
Then there are some new names in the mix – first year head coaches at the ACAC level who will look to start their coaching careers off right at NAIT. Two assistant coaches are getting promoted to their first shot at head coaching: Brenden Jensen and Jordan Taylor.
Brendan Jensen, former goalie for the NAIT Ooks men’s team and lead assistant coach of the Women’s hockey team in 2019-2020, has agreed to the head coaching position for the women’s program.
In Men’s volleyball, Jordan Taylor, a long time assistant to Doug Anton’s men’s volleyball teams, has agreed to the head coaching position for the Ooks.
Scott Fellnermayr, who succeeded Tim Fragle as interim head coach of the men’s hockey team last year, returns to NAIT Athletics as head coach.
“We were very happy with what we saw from Scott last season as our men’s hockey interim coach,” said Richey. “If he can handle it in a COVID year, we are extremely confident in his ability to do the job on a full-time basis.”
After 45 years of coaching the NAIT Ooks’ curling team, Jules Owchar is moving on and is being replaced by Karynn Flory, a NAIT graduate who skipped her way to four CCAA national championship appearances in as many years in her time at NAIT.
Filling out the roster of coaches for the 2021-2022 ACAC season is new men’s basketball head coach Jordan Baker, a former U of A Golden Bear, and current forward for Edmonton Stingers in the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
“It’s an opportunity we couldn’t pass on to bring Jordan in, with what he’s accomplished in basketball for the city of Edmonton,” said Richey.
The former U of A Golden Bear is in the prime of his playing career with the Edmonton Stingers, leading the league in rebounding in back to back years, and will follow his professional basketball season with the Stingers by beginning his head coaching career at NAIT.
With the coaching positions of the NAIT athletics department filled with new and familiar faces, there is great reason to be excited for what the future brings for NAIT Ooks sports.