By Martin Cleary
Coaching has a whole new meaning these days for John MacInnis.
During the recent Ottawa Shooting Stars competitive youth basketball season, he coached his 10-year-old son’s team and assisted with his 12-year-old daughter’s squad.
“It’s a fun way to hang out with my kids,” MacInnis said in a recent phone interview.
And it was a far cry from serving as head coach or assistant coach with the Algonquin College Thunder women’s basketball program during his 10-year term from 2005-06 to 2014-15.
MacInnis stepped away from the Algonquin program seven years ago to focus more time on his young family.
But earlier this year, the good memories of his six years as head coach and four years as assistant coach came rushing back, when he learned he would be inducted into the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
What made this significant event even more special was he would be welcomed into the hall at the same time as two of his former players – Jenny Duval (Allen) and Sara Maybee.
On May 1 at St. Clair College in Windsor, the OCAA inducted MacInnis, Allen and Maybee among the 32 athletes, coaches and builders at its 10th induction ceremony, bringing its hall membership to 452.
“I’m really humbled and honoured,” MacInnis said. “It was kind of fun. It brought back a flood of memories and it was fun reliving those memories. It was a really nice bow to put on top of everything.
“I didn’t work for the recognition, but it was nice to be recognized for my efforts over 10 years.”
Entering the OCAA Hall of Fame with two players from the first half of his Algonquin coaching career made the event better than ever.
“They were a big part of the program back in those years,” he added. “Jenny was one of the main reasons we won our first (OCAA) championship in 2011. It was the first (women’s basketball) title since 1973 and it was at home. That was a big moment for me and Algonquin.”
MacInnis was recruited in 2005 by head coach Brian White, who recently passed away, to serve as an assistant coach, a role he carried for three seasons as well as his final season. During that time, he coached Allen in her first two seasons and Maybee in her second and third seasons from 2005-07.
After Maybee graduated, she enrolled at Loyalist College and was an all-star player for the Lancers. Allen also played a third season (2007-08) with MacInnis as assistant coach. After taking a two-year break, Allen returned in 2010-11, when MacInnis was in his third season as head coach.
The 2010-11 season was monumental for Algonquin as it not only won its first OCAA provincial title, but also reached the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championship game. Algonquin stayed with Montmorency College until the final five minutes before losing 61-53.
Sandre Bascoe and Allen were named to the first all-tournament all-star team and Tina Ethier was selected to the second team. Dayna Dover and Trish Grey completed the Algonquin starting five. Algonquin also earned the Fair Play Team award.
The 2010-11 season was the start of a special run for the Thunder, who are now nicknamed the Wolves. MacInnis, the OCAA coach of the year for 2010-11, led Algonquin to a record four consecutive league championships in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
MacInnis compiled an overall league win-loss mark of 84-12, which included three undefeated seasons and only two losses over five seasons.
During his 10 years on the Algonquin coaching staff, he celebrated four gold, one silver and two bronze OCAA championship medals.
MacInnis started his coaching career with the Memorial High School junior high team in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, after he didn’t make the men’s basketball team at Cape Breton University.
He moved to Ottawa in 2001 and took basketball coaching assignments at St. Joseph High School and with the Gloucester Wolverines. He was recruited by White to join the Algonquin women’s coaching staff in 2005.
“I really enjoy the game. I felt I had a coach’s mind, liked the nuances and the Xs and Os,” MacInnis explained. “I was asked by Brian (White) and I took it right away. It was a no-brainer.
“My dad coached at Memorial and had great teams. Coaching was in my blood and I took to it. I enjoy competing.”
MacInnis took great pride in building his teams with talented Ottawa players, which led to six winning seasons.
“We were successful because the players were committed to getting better and committed to winning,” he said. “They worked hard, defended, competed and got better every day.
“We wanted to compete and get better. I had kids who wanted to do that. The assistant coaches were on the same page and that developed a culture. When you can do that, the sky’s the limit.”
Personally, coaching basketball “satisfied my competitive spirit.”
“Being part of a group, I’ve made great friends to this day,” MacInnis said. “There were challenges, but I’m competitive at heart. The challenge was to see how far you could go. I look back at each year. There were tough years and great years.
“There were challenges early in the first two years and I wondered if I was cut out to be a head coach. But I persevered through.”
A three-time Algonquin team co-captain, Allen was the OCAA MVP and a CCAA All-Canadian in 2010-11. She also was a three-time OCAA all-star and a two-time OCAA championship tournament all-star.
During her final season in 2010-11, she averaged 13.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 steals a game.
“It was a huge honour,” Allen said about being inducted into the OCAA Hall of Fame. “It’s special. I was with John my whole career.
“He was very organized, a passionate coach. He put in the time and effort. He was a great coach.”
Maybee played three seasons at Algonquin from 2004 to 2007, winning OCAA silver medals in 2005 and 2006 and a bronze in 2007. In her final season with the Thunder, she was an OCAA second-team all-star.
When Maybee attended Loyalist, she was a standout player in her second season (2008-09), being named a CCAA All-Canadian, a CCAA Academic All-Canadian, tied for third place in career scoring as a Lancer at 480 points and was selected Loyalist’s female athlete of the year.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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