September 19, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 13  

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SPORTS

Boydell: His father's son

By Jordan Bell
Gazette Staff

Dave Picard/Gazette
HE'S GOT A BASKETBALL JONES, A BASKETBALL JONES... Mustangs men's basketball coach Craig Boydell stands at mid-court, a place he's often been after celebrating the team's many successes.

Growing up in northern New Jersey, Western Mustangs men's basketball coach Craig Boydell was instantly thrust into the world of athletics.

"Where I was brought up, it was football, basketball and baseball," Boydell explains. "[Those sports] defined the seasons of your life."

Amazingly, it wasn't basketball that consumed the veteran coach. Quite possibly resulting from the euphoria surrounding the Yankees and America's great pastime, Boydell immersed himself in the semi-pro minor baseball leagues and competitive high school baseball within New York's vast sports landscape.

And it was here where the young Boydell - the son of a man who was forced to exit the school system at 12 years old to provide for a family of 11 and his father who was stricken with black lung disease from working in the coal mines - was noticed and noticed big time. He was offered a major league contract directly out of high school, but instead chose to attend Rutgers University.

Boydell says he doesn't regret the decision he made to not pursue a career in baseball, but like Jim Belushi in Mr. Destiny, always wonders what may have been.

"Like most people who had some possibilities, you always wonder how it would've worked out at the next level," Boydell says. "But I don't try and second guess whether it was a good or bad decision [to go to grad school instead of chasing the baseball dream]."

Fast forward to today and Boydell can be seen pacing the sidelines in Alumni Hall. Competing among other athletes has been replaced by tutoring numerous Western student-athletes who have passed through the gates. It was once again his father's sacrifices that paved the way.

"[My father] had very limited opportunities... yet some of my best memories in sport growing up were doing things with my father, against my father - it was a driving force in my interest in sports," Boydell says.

The transition couldn't have been more successful for coach Boydell. Early in his career he inherited an extremely talented Mustangs team from former coach Doug Hayes, led by quite possibly the greatest basketball player in Mustangs history (forward John Stiefelmeyer) and brought them to the 1991 national championships in Halifax where they defeated the Guelph Gryphons. Amazingly, the Mustangs were losing 28-4 in that contest, yet Boydell and his troops never wavered in their confidence, a clear result of something everyone involved with men's university basketball understands - the Mustangs preparedness.

"[Craig] is always prepared and offers a unique style of play," said McMaster head coach Joe Raso. "They've had a specific style of play since he's been there and he always gets people to play within [that system]."

Boydell further explains the method to his madness: "I love to teach, whether it's fundamentals or systems," he says. "And I'm a very detail-oriented person, which sometimes drives me crazy because I'm always thinking of the extra detail.

"I also love this whole spy versus spy thing I sometimes allude to - part of being prepared for games is not only having your team ready to run your stuff but it's understanding everything the other team does. I really get a charge out of that... because you know there are coaches around the country doing the same thing you're doing."

The Mustangs have also been frequenting the nationals the past five years before last year with a very talented nucleus of players, most notably Andy Kwiatkowski, Jimmy Grozelle, Chedo Ndur, Chris Brown and Matt Tweedie. Unfortunately, they've come home empty handed, some would say in horrendous, nightmarish, somebody-find-me-a-cliff-to-jump-off ways.

The most profound was when Brandon's Josh Masters buried a half-court buzzer-beater to eliminate the Mustangs from the 2000 national championships. It was the type of shot a guy could spend a week in a gym trying to make and never make it and captured Masters the TSN Play of the Year. Boydell says however, without presenting yourself, you can never succeed.

"I would be lying to you if I said this was all about process for me," Boydell says. "I respect process, but I like to win - the goal every year is to get to nationals. Being there is what it's all about."

Boydell faces a very daunting challenge this year, trying to lead a squad chock full of youth back to the nationals. It may happen, it may not, but no matter where they finish, Boydell will be loving the action.

"I always had a passion for sports. If you could hit it, or bounce it, or throw it, I loved doing it."

 

 

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