Boydell: His father's son
By Jordan Bell
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
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
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
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
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 Competing among other athletes has been replaced
by tutoring numerous Western student-athletes who have passed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,
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."