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Sports This Week: New Rattler coach learning about CEBL

Readying for upcoming season
DeanDemopoulos 72
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 11: Dean Demopoulos the coach of United encourages his players during the round one NBL match between Melbourne United and the Illawarra Hawks at Hisense Arena on October 11, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.

YORKTON - The Saskatchewan Rattlers are heading into their fourth season with a new head coach at the helm.  

The Canadian Elite Basketball League team announced recently Dean Demopoulos would be joining the team taking over for interim coach Conor Dow who took over last July when Chad Jacobson stepped down.  

The Rattlers, who won the inaugural CEBL championship in 2019, had a dismal year in 2021 winning only once in 14 outings.  

“The Rattlers are working their way back to our 2019 championship year. We are rebuilding this season, from the front office to above the rim and are excited to see Dean Demopoulos bring a winning atmosphere to this province,” said Brad Kraft, Vice President, Saskatchewan Rattlers in a release announcing the new coach.  

Demopoulos, a native of Philadelphia certainly has an extensive resume to draw on. According to the release he made his professional coaching debut in 1983 at Temple University where he was an assistant coach under John Chaney (Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame). During his 17 years with Temple University, the team held a winning record of 393-151 and made it to the annual NCAA ‘March Madness Tournament 16 times.  

Making his NBA debut in 2001, Demopoulos served as an assistant coach with the Seattle Supersonics under Nate McMillan and then went on to be a part of the Portland Trail Blazers coaching staff in 2005. After five seasons in Portland where he coached players like Greg Oden, Lamarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, he was then hired by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2010 where he served for three years and coached NBA all-stars, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.   

Demopoulos left the Clippers in 2013, and later signed on as the head coach of Melbourne United of the Australian National Basketball League (NBL) in 2015. He led the team to an undefeated record as Melbourne finished the season in first place. Following his time in the NBL, Demopoulos became an assistant coach in the NBA G League for the Grand Rapids Drive (Detroit Pistons affiliate) during the 2018-19 season.  

While Demopoulos has tons of experience he told Yorkton This Week he isn’t sure exactly what to expect with the Rattlers or the CEBL.  

“It’s going to be a learning experience for me,” he said.  

Demopoulos said at present he’s very much in student mode calling people he knows who are more familiar with the CEBL -- in particular Barry Rawlyk the club’s General Manager -- and watching game film to get himself in-tune with the league and its rules.  

Demopoulos said Rawlyk is a definite asset, adding “I’ve been talking to him quite a lot.”  

“The whole thing is a crash course, so I’m in the process of doing it,” he said, admitted “I have a lot more questions than answers right now.”  

Demopoulos must learn quickly as a roster needs to be filled out rather quickly with the league set to start in late May.   

“You can’t win without talent,” he said. 

Of course in the CEBL there is the added twist of having a Canadian quota, a minimum number of spots for players from this country. During the first three seasons 75 per cent of CEBL rosters were Canadians.  

“We’re in the process of identifying talent,” said Demopoulos. “. . . We want to get as much talent as we can.”  

Headed into his first season with the Rattlers, Demopoulos said a key will be adapting as he goes, adding he’s gone through some of that before when he headed to Australia not knowing the league, the players or even the team owner.  

“I’ll bring an open mind, and energy and an open mind,” he promised.  

Demopoulos said he has few rules with his players.  

“I like everyone to be on time. The only rule I have, play hard when I tell you too – that’s when you’re on the court,” he said.  

The CEBL is preparing for its fourth season, a season which will introduce three new teams, the Scarborough Shooting Stars, Montreal Alliance, and the Newfoundland Growlers.