Coach Lucian Sauciuc tosses a jersey to one of his girls. “Try this one on.” The girl smiles back at him and he continues on into his office, filled with basketballs and creaky chairs. He takes a seat at his desk with a humble look on his face and shares his own experiences coaching the Senior Girls Basketball team at Centennial Secondary School in Coquitlam.
Being a Centennial alumnus, Sauciuc played basketball throughout high school and even won a junior boys provincial championship in 2004. He graduated in 2006 and continued competing during his five years in university at both TRU and Trinity Western. So what would be the appeal in coaching?
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to mentor, teach, and grow with a group of kids, you’ve probably found it to be one of the most rewarding experiences.
Sauciuc, a longtime coach with the highly acclaimed DRIVE club basketball program, found a sense of pride watching the young men he worked with all spring and summer find success during their high school season, many of whom continued on to college.
But this challenge would be different: this is Sauciuc’s first time coaching girls basketball.
“It was a little bit of a change at first, but you know, I have a nice group of girls and they work hard,” says Coach Sauciuc. “It’s made me a better coach because what works with guys doesn’t really work with girls.”
After finishing PDP, Sauciuc was hired immediately at Centennial and became the coach of the senior girl’s basketball team in his first year. He’s been with the team for three years now.
“You have to find different strategies and different ways to manufacture good shots because the athleticism is much different from boys. But they do execute well and they listen to you…I mean, it’s been challenging, but it’s also been really good.”
Aside from athleticism, communicating with girls can be tricky. However, Coach Sauciuc has embraced this challenge and strives to encourage his athletes in other ways.
“It’s just getting to know each one of them and seeing what kind of buttons you’re able to push to motivate them.”
Just like his team, Sauciuc says he’s still learning as a coach every day.
“I’m always trying to become a better coach. Just coaching girls in general, you’re forced to come up with new schemes offensively and defensively,” he says. “The whole process has definitely been rewarding.”
And with the Top 10 Tourney kicking off today, Sauciuc recognizes that his team, who are currently 8-12 on the season, need to come out strong and compete with everything they’ve got. “Realistically, there [are] 12 teams and all 11 of them are ranked except us. I mean, we’re playing the No. 3 ranked team Wednesday and I think No. 7 on Thursday, so we’re going to have our hands full right away. But hey, I like competition. I would rather play a good team; I think that’s how you get better.”
Last weekend, the Centaurs came out roaring during the tournament at Notre Dame and almost knocked off one of the best AA teams in the province.
“I think seeing improvement, just seeing stuff clicks, stuff that you work on in practice that finally just works has been a highlight this year for sure.”
Coach Sauciuc has an undeniable spark for this team and basketball in general. His eyes light up just talking about how far the girls have come this year and the sheer drive they have to make provincials, too.
“Eight of our top nine players are back next year, which is encouraging for the program. That’s the goal, I think every coach wants to be peaking at playoff time and hopefully upset someone in the Fraser Valleys and potentially make provincials, but we’ll see where our season takes us.”
The end goal is obviously to win, but Sauciuc is proud of his team no matter the outcome.
“It’s always a pleasure to coach and build relationships with these girls. And I think I’ve created relationships that go beyond the basketball court, which to me, is a win in itself.”
Catch Coach Sauciuc and the Centennial Centaurs at the Top 10 Tournament happening this weekend at Centennial Secondary.
Written By: Crystal Scuor