Calgary Surge install 'rising star' Tyrell Vernon as new head coach

Sudden departure of Nelson Terroba allows Calgary club to bring in a face familiar to the front office

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The Calgary Surge got their guy. In short order, too.

Needing to fill its sudden head-coaching vacancy, the Canadian Elite Basketball League club has turned to Tyrell Vernon, announcing his appointment Thursday morning at WinSport.

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“Really excited, and a great opportunity,” said the 35-year-old Vernon, a former assistant in the league and a successful Canadian university bench boss. “Scouting against Calgary last year and being here last year and playing in WinSport was very eye-opening. It was just extremely professional, day-to-day. How we were treated when we got off the plane — even as a visiting team — it just spoke wonders.

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“It was an easy decision.”

The Surge say the same of hiring Vernon.

The Hamilton native comes to Calgary — just four weeks ahead of the 2024 CEBL season opener on May 21 at Scotiabank Saddledome — with the full blessing of senior advisor Steve Konchalski, who retired from the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in 2021 as the winningest coach in U SPORTS history and handed the reins to Vernon, whom ‘Coach K’ considers to be “one of the most elite young coaches in our country.”

“Tyrell is a rising star on the Canadian basketball scene and is known for his infectious positive energy and strong connections within the community,” agreed Surge GM Shane James. “With his extensive knowledge of the game, Tyrell has achieved remarkable success in his coaching career at St. FX University. We have full confidence that he will bring that same level of success to the professional level and could not be more excited to have him on board.”

Indeed, Vernon was named the 2023 Atlantic University Sport coach of the year and led the X-Men to the AUS title and a U SPORTS silver medal last season.

And during the last two summers, he was an assistant coach with the CEBL-champion Scarborough Shooting Stars, playing a critical role in their success, with the team making the league’s championship game both years and winning it last summer over the Surge.

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“Quick turnaround after being with Scarborough and now being here with the Surge,” Vernon said. “But just the organization and the staff (makes the move easier). Coach K has been with the Surge. I’ve known Shane for a long time, going up against him when we were in the prep school league in the (Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association). And a lot of the players I’ve coached or recruited, so I really followed them really well.”

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Vernon has also served as an award-winning head coach of the boys’ basketball team at TRC Academy, a prep school and successful OSBA program in Brantford, Ont.

Before taking up a coaching career, Vernon was a star player for the X-Men from 2011-13 and then turned pro with the Mississauga Power of the National Basketball League of Canada before earning the 2013 North of the Border Basketball League’s most valuable player honour and championship with Team 905.

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“I’ve talked to about 90% of the guys,” said Vernon, who says he’s not a yeller or a screamer but plans to hold the players accountable mostly because “they’re here to be role models for the Calgary community and the kids coming up.

“All great conversations,” continued Vernon, describing his roster as being versatile and having length. “They’re all ready and excited and to get after it. And they were very receptive.

“We just talked about their skill sets and what I see on film and what they want to get out of the summer, as well, because this is also a development league, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re setting them up so that they are ready to go for that next contract.

“Defensively, we’re definitely going to get after it and fly around. And offensively, we’re gonna spread it out and try to be exciting — get downhill, so that it’s something that’s enjoyable to watch.”

Jason Ribeiro
Calgary Surge vice-chairman and president, Jason Ribeiro announces Tyrell Vernon as the team’s new head coach during a press conference at the WinSport Markin MacPhail Centre on Thursday April 18, 2024. Gavin Young/Postmedia

The need for a new head coach came suddenly when Nelson Terroba, who joined the team last March for its inaugural — and successful — first season in the CEBL, resigned from the post early last week to take up an assistant’s gig with the NCAA’s Rice Owls in his home state of Texas.

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“This is a fantastic move for Nelson Terroba, so the Calgary Surge are Nelson Terroba fans — that’s not going to change,” added Surge president Jason Ribeiro. “We have a very special memory of our inaugural season. But our job is to get to work.

“And when looking for a head coach, our criteria has always been very simple. Who is someone who has the full confidence of our basketball operations, leadership and staff in our front office? Who is someone who we know shares our values, not just around the style of play and an exciting sort of winning mentality but also someone as an individual who shares our organization’s values? And then finally, who is someone who has won, pure and simple.

“And today, I’m a very lucky man that I get to tell all of you that we have the individual who’s checked all of those boxes.”

[email protected]

X: @ToddSaelhofPM

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