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Getting to know your U SPORTS coaches: Dan Vanhooren, Calgary Dinos

U SPORTS Staff

Throughout the 2017-18 season, U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our new interview series “Getting to know…”

calgary_heads.png (41 KB)Name: Dan Vanhooren

School: University of Calgary

Sport: Men’s basketball

Position: Head coach

Seniority: 18 seasons

Previous school/position: Head coach, Medicine Hat College

Hometown: Red Deer, Alta.


How did you first get involved in coaching? What was your path to your position as head coach of the Dinos?

I started into coaching while playing basketball in Red Deer. This was an easy choice with the number of great coaches that I was fortunate enough to play under.  I went to school at Red Deer College, finishing my undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta in physical education. I decided to pursue coaching as a profession, and finished a Masters degree in sport psychology at the University of British Columbia. During that time was involved with the Vancouver Canadians in Triple A baseball and the Vancouver Grizzlies in the NBA. From there I moved on to Medicine Hat College to coach the basketball team and teach in the Health Sciences faculty. I was hired to coach the Dinos following some success in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) in 2000. 

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Who are the people that have influenced you most as a coach?

  1. My wife Kara Vanhooren
  2. My first coach: Mike Baccarea
  3. My high school coach: John Johnston
  4. Wayne Thomas, Geoff Thompson and many of our alumni

How would you describe your coaching style?

Holistic is probably the best descriptor. Philosophically, it’s about building “good young men” upon graduation.  I also see myself as a teacher.

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Which coach do you admire the most, and why?

Gregg Popovic of the San Antonio Spurs. He is uncompromising in his principles regarding team culture and accountability. It’s a difficult job in the NBA to do that, and it has demonstrated that it can be done to many young coaches. 

What is the most “out-of-the-box” thing you’ve done as a coach?

Incorporated a drum circle in our team building in 2004. It was great for our team, and as Phil Jackson has stated, “basketball is inherently rhythmical,” so it fits.

What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement?

Watching my former players grow up and have families of their own, knowing that they learned something from our program they express back to us as valuable in their lives now.

What’s the best advice you can give to an athlete and/or athlete’s parents?

Know your “end game.” Understand if your goal as an athlete is to play in Europe as a professional, and that your education is key, as we will all be in men’s league in the end. Canadian basketball combined with the educational opportunities is second to none.

How have you changed as a coach over time? What principles/values, etc. have remained the same?

I have learned to manage my own “yin and yang” – by that I mean I am a giver by nature, and while that has served me well as a coach, it can also be detrimental to accomplishing goals. I have learned to hold to key principles and values solidly. Effort and industriousness along with perseverance have always remained.

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What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in coaching mode?

Watching my kids play and compete. Spending time with my family touring North America together.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you as a coach?

In my very first game as the head coach of the Dinos, we had inadvertently brought our women’s jerseys instead of our men’s jerseys on the road. We had to ask that our opponent allow us to wear their away jerseys.

Men’s Basketball

Getting to know your U SPORTS coaches: Rod Gilpin, Bishop’s Gaiters

U SPORTS Staff