Les Berry has been enjoying life away from basketball for the past eight months. But when the Halifax Rainmen offered him their head-coaching job, he jumped at it.
“The fit here,” Berry said, “can’t get any better for myself.”
The Halifax native, unveiled yesterday as head coach of the Rainmen just two days after the firing of Rick Lewis, resigned as head coach of the Acadia Axemen last June.
The timing of his resignation stunned the basketball community. He had just completed a three-year overhaul of the Axemen, guiding them to a national runner-up finish after an historic double-overtime upset of the five-time defending champion and host Carleton Ravens in the semifinals.
But the father of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy didn’t enjoy the heavy commitment of university coaching. Evening practices took a bite out of the time he spent with his son.
“That was just eating away,” he said.
With the Rainmen, the life he’s known for the past eight months remains unchanged. Practices start at 9 a.m. and are done by noon, while all nine remaining games are on weekends.
“This does not affect anything that I do with my family,” he said.
Unlike Lewis, Berry will not be the team’s general manager. Owner Andre Levingston will recruit and sign players, as he has all along in conjunction with Lewis.
“That’s the good thing — the players are given to me,” Berry said. “Whoever is here, I’m going to coach.”
He called this a “two-month interim position” and said both he and Levingston will determine if it’s the right fit.
Berry, known for his animated and vocal approach on the sidelines, listed rebounding and defence as two big concerns with the Rainmen, who have a 6-5 record and are third in the Premier Basketball League’s Atlantic Conference.
He’s already gone to work restructuring the offence. He said from what he’s seen, opponents have lured the Rainmen into taking jump shots every time down the floor. He wants to change that by introducing more balance to the attack.
“I’m an inside-out coach and everybody knows that,” Berry said. “I know this team has shooters but I would like to utilize our strength inside (to open up more space).”
Berry said he has never coached a team with the talent of the Rainmen and is eager to get started.
“I truly feel that with some slight, minor changes, with my style, we can do some really good things,” he said.