For 33 years, Rich Goulet has done things his way with the Pitt Meadows senior boys’ basketball team, and that has meant one thing.
A whole lot of them.
Goulet’s success with the team reached a milestone on Saturday, as the Marauders Air Force beat cross-town rivals Maple Ridge secondary 48-33 to win the 2011 HawkBall tournament at WJ Mouat secondary in Abbotsford.
It was Goulet’s 1,000th win as coach of the senior boys’ team at Pitt.
One thousand times he has coached Pitt Meadows’ finest athletes to victory, calling out plays, calling out players, and calling it the way he sees it, averaging more than 30 wins per season in the process.
“I knew I’d get to 1,000 wins one day, but I thought I’d get there on longevity alone,” says Goulet. “I didn’t think I get there this soon, but the last few years the wins have really been piling up.”
Two seasons ago, Goulet coached his winningest team yet. That team, led by Mike Lewandowski and Spencer Evans finished fourth at the provincial finals with a season record of 47-9. Last year’s team, led by Malcolm Williams, came close to besting that mark, eventually finishing fifth at the B.C. finals.
“You look at our teams over the years, we’ve had some pretty awesome ones,” he says.
With Goulet at the helm, the Marauder Air Force has won the provincial basketball championship three times; in 1983 at the AA-level, and in 1989 and 2000 at AAA. Pitt was also the runner-up in 1986, 1992, and 2004, each time losing in the final game.
“We’re still a AA-sized school,” notes Goulet. “We’ve got a lot of talent here in Pitt Meadows, for a town of Pitt Meadows’ size.”
Goulet began his high school coaching career at St. Thomas More in Burnaby in 1970, before coming to Pitt Meadows secondary in 1979.
Goulet says he was lucky to work with some of the best coaches anywhere early on in his career, attending coaching clinics run by former Seattle Supersonics coach Lenny Wilkens, and current University of Arizona head coach Jim Livengood.
When Goulet first arrived at Pitt Meadows, there wasn’t much of basketball program in place.
“When I was hired, the principal asked me to win him a provincial basketball championship in five years,” Goulet recalls.
Goulet and his Marauders did it in four, winning the B.C. AA championship in 1983.
In all, Goulet estimates he’s coached close to 3,000 games, taking into account the games he’s coached at the Grade 8, Grade 9, and junior level, as well as with St. Thomas More and Basketball B.C.’s provincial teams.
With the Pitt seniors, he’s coached more than 1,500 games, maintaining a win percentage of more than 60 per cent.
“Early on I thought I might make it to 2,000, and that would be a good coaching career,” he said. “Now it’s 2012 and I don’t have any plans to retire.”
Few coaches are able to commit as much time and energy as Goulet has to the Marauders over his coaching career. When the season is in full tilt, Goulet and his team are on the court nearly every day. Between teaching and coaching, his work often stretches from sun up to well past sun down.
That hectic pace took its toll, however. This past July, Goulet suffered a stroke that would have had many his age contemplating retirement.
While Goulet still hasn’t returned to the classroom – he hopes to be back teaching this March – he has continued to coach the senior boys’ team as he recovers.
He has slowed down somewhat, he admits.
“I take Sundays off now,” he says.
His coaching style, however, he refuses to change.
Goulet is hard to miss courtside at Pitt Meadows secondary’s gym.
The senior boys’ basketball coach’s shouts can often be heard echoing down the school’s hallways on game day, as he uses his booming voice to ensure his players know exactly what he wants them to do on the court.
But Goulet’s philosophy is simple. If you play for him, you will play to the best of your abilities.
If you fail to do that, you will hear from him.
“If a guy is doing everything he’s supposed to be doing, I’m not going to bother them,” Goulet says. “That’s happened lots of times where we get to B.C.’s and we are doing everything right, and I’ve got nothing to say, they’ve shut me up.”
His standards are high, he admits, but every player who suits up for the Marauders Air Force should have high expectations of themselves.
“If you commit to play basketball at Pitt, the first thing you commit to is excellence,” Goulet says. “If they are going to sit on my team and not try to be excellent, they are in the wrong place, pure and simple.”
In the 33 years he has had hundreds of players under his tutelage. Players like Dean Florence, Derek Welsh, and Aaron Christensen, each of whom were named provincial MVPs. Players like Bryson Kool, Scott Walton, Lewandowski and Williams have all gone on to play at the university level.
He’s proud of all of his players for the hard work they’ve contributed and for helping to build a winning tradition at Pitt Meadows, he says.
“They’ve bought in and they’ve worked their asses off,” says Goulet. “You couldn’t be prouder of these kids over the years.”
While some might expect Goulet to mellow in his later years, he claims to have done the opposite.
“I was probably an easier going guy when I was younger,” he says. “I was a quiet guy when I was kid, but coaching turned me into a more vociferous person.”
As much success as his old-school style of coaching has brought him, he wouldn’t recommend it for young coaches.
“When I started, it was a different time, and people accepted my style, but I don’t recommend it to coaches starting out,” he says. “If I was a young guy coaching the way I am right now, the principal would probably be coming up and telling me to change my coaching style … the parents would probably be feeling bolder to say something.
“There would be more people in the way of that young coach than anyone I’d know.”
With the 1,000-win milestone now in his rearview mirror, Goulet has his sights set on his next a goal: a fourth provincial championship.
Goulet knows his time with the team will come to end some day, and this year’s team may be his best chance to capture another provincial title.
This year’s edition of the Marauder Air Force is currently ranked third in the province, and has only lost one game this season.
“I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be around,” he says. “It’d be nice to win one more.”