Two-time Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year Olga Hrycak was inducted into the CCAA Hall of Fame in the Coach Category.
Hrycak guided the Dawson Blues to nine provincial men’s basketball championships in 15 years. She led Dawson to three CCAA silver medals (1998, 1999, 2003) and a bronze medal (1992). Her career at the Cégep level began with the Champlain Saint-Lambert Cavaliers, who she led to a CCAA silver medal in 1981.
Overall, her team’s earned trips to 10 CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championships.
“Olga was, by her own admission, a very demanding coach who despite her small stature was able to motivate the Dawson College men’s basketball players into being the best they could be, both on and off the court,” said Dan Boyer, Coordinator of Student Services & Athletics at Dawson College.
Hrycak made North American basketball history in 2003, when she was hired as the inaugural head coach of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Citadins, becoming the first woman to coach a men’s team at the university level in Canada or the United States. She had a 12-year career with the Citadins from 2003-15 and won two RSEQ titles (2006, 2010).
In 2017, she was the first Quebec head coach to be inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
Hrycak was named the CCAA Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year in 1991 and 1997.
“Being a female coach and winning two Coach of the Year honours over my male counterparts, this helped to solidify my reputation and credibility as a coach,” said Hrycak, who credits her successful coaching experiences in the CCAA as helping her pave the path of confidence to coach at the university level.
Recruiting players was Hrycak’s most difficult task but it was helpful that her reputation preceded her.
“I sought out players who had a winning attitude and had experienced winning ways as well as those players who may not have been as talented but were hard workers,” she said. “This recruiting philosophy made for me the essence of great team chemistry.”
Of the countless memories Hrycak has of her time in the CCAA, her first provincial championship at Champlain stands out.
With only 10 seconds left on the clock in the championship final, the Cavaliers were clinging to a one-point lead over Maisonneuve. Champlain fouled their best player, a 6-foot-8 centre who happened to be 10-for-10 from the free-throw line that game. Incredibly, he missed both attempts and the Cavaliers were victorious.
“At the presentation of the gold medals, the Saint-Lambert fans chanted ‘Olga, Olga, Olga!’ and I was deeply touched,” said Hrycak. “After only two years coaching men at the Cégep level, it was my proof that a coach can be successful as long as the players believed in the coach and the system.
In between her eight years at Champlain and her 15 seasons at Dawson, Hrycak was chosen to be an apprentice coach with the Canadian Men’s Basketball Olympic team for 1987-1988.
“My years at Champlain and at Dawson were some of the most exciting, successful and memorable years of coaching – 23 to be exact,” said Hrycak. “At both schools, my teams were very competitive; yet the concept of family was even stronger. It was really hard to leave “family” on both occasions.”