U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our interview series “Getting to know…”
- Name: Mario Joseph
- School: Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
- Sport: Men’s basketball
- Position: Head coach
- Seniority: 14th season at UQAM (12 years as assistant coach, 2 years as head coach)
- Previous school/position: Assistant coach (UQAM)
- Hometown: Montreal, Quebec
1. How did you first get involved in coaching? What was your path to your position as head coach of UQAM?
In my last year at university, my coach and mentor Olga Hrycack, asked me if I wanted to work with her as an assistant coach, and I said yes. I knew I didn’t want to play basketball anymore, but I wanted to stay close to the sport and share the knowledge that I had acquired throughout my career. In the last seven years, I learned so much with Olga Hrycack and Nevio Marzinotto. They made me discover the world of basketball from a different perspective. I soon aspired to become a head coach myself, in the near future. My first experience as a head coach was in the summer of 2013 with the Pagé-Dynamo team. It was a semi-professional league with high-calibre players that allowed me to experience the life of a head coach with decision-making in match situations. This first season was exciting; with the hours spent in the gym working with legends, we ended up winning the championship. I coached three years in this league. All three years we made it to the final, and we won two championships in a row. In April 2015, my mentor decided to retire. I decided to apply because I finally felt ready to take over the program she had built. I was selected for the interviews, but I didn't get the job. I was disappointed, but I knew my time was coming and I kept my chin up. Nate Phillipe got the job and he decided to keep me on staff because he thought I could help him build a winning program. I immediately accepted the opportunity because I knew I was going to learn a lot with him. He had a lot of experience from his time in the United States. Over these two years, I learned so much and I'm happy to have embraced this opportunity. In May 2017, I was appointed interim head coach and in February 2018, I was appointed officially with the role of head coach. UQAM is a program that I hold dear because they allowed me to develop and grow as a player and athlete. I want to be a role model for anyone aspiring to be a head coach in the future
2. Who are the people that have influenced you most as a coach?
The people who have influenced me most as a coach are my mother, my friends, and my coaches who have been present in my life. I have always wanted to be a “sponge” to absorb as much knowledge as possible and even today, I continue to do so, because if I stop, I won’t ever become the best coach possible.
3. How would you describe your coaching style?
My coaching style is based on respect, a positive attitude, teamwork and sportsmanship. I understand that every individual is different and you have to know how to talk to each person to get the best out of them. These are basic values. Life and basketball run in parallel, but they’re very similar. I want the basis of communication to be sincere. When everyone is connected beyond their goals in sport, the transparency and trust created can only be beneficial to the team.
4. Which coach do you admire the most, and why?
The coaches that I admire most are all the coaches I've worked with along the way, but especially Olga Hrycack, because she's been an important person in my life. She recruited me at the age of 17 to go to Dawson College, she coached me for two years at UQAM and she gave me my first opportunity as a coach. Nineteen years in a lifetime... it's huge. Even today, we chat after each game and we always have good conversations.
5. What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement?
My best moment is when they removed the word “interim” from in front of head coach. My greatest achievement as a coach is when I see athletes graduating as young adults at the end of their university career; seeing how far they’ve come and how they’ve matured, and knowing that I instilled values in them that will help them to go out on their own into the world.
6. What’s the best advice you can give to an athlete and/or athlete’s parents?
When you choose a coach, you have to make sure that you like the coach and that the coach likes you. It is through this bond of friendship that you as an athlete can progress and push your boundaries, because the coach will allow you to make mistakes and grow because he/she believes in you.
7. How have you changed as a coach over time? What principles/values, etc. have remained the same?
My principles and values have remained the same, but I still believe in keeping an open mind. There is always something to learn. Sometimes, when I replay our games, I see new things in the way my players move and I make the adjustments the next day. It’s important to always be ready to learn and evolve if you want to become a better coach.
8. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in coaching mode?
When I'm not coaching, I like spending time with family and friends. I like to go watch my children doing their activities and see them playing and having fun.