Guest Of Honour – Garth McAlpine

Garth McAlpine Guest of Honour for WIT 2020

As we start a new decade, we at WIT have much to be proud of: our tournament is 45 years old and more so than that, it has been a positive influence on many young players, coaches and students.  This positive experience can only happen with the hard work of the organizing committee and the dedication of teachers and students who consistently put together a yearly tournament that showcases the talents of basketball players and coaches from both Winnipeg and afar; WIT is a showcase for a school that throws itself into making WIT the most entertaining and well run tournament in western Canada.  This year we honour a teacher, coach, organizer and now administrator with the Winnipeg School Division; someone who believes in the power of sport, especially basketball, to make a difference in a young person’s life, Garth McAlpine.

Garth has been involved in the Manitoba basketball community since he picked up a ball in grade 6 at Robertson school, Tim Michaw, a term teacher and basketball guy saw the potential of Garth and started a B-Ball club.  Garth loved the game and his dad, Neil McAlpine, long time principal in the WSD, put up the ubiquitous hoop on the garage and Garth has been shooting the rock ever since. 

After Robertson school, Garth made the jump to Andrew Mynarski, where head coach Bob Stechisen taught Garth and his teammates the fundamentals of the game.  The Hawks were the “little brothers” to the J.V. squad at Sisler.  Garth then attended basketball camps and made the Regional Development Team created by Basketball Manitoba as a precursor to the provincial team structure in place today. Daryl Stevenson coached Garth with the Winnipeg North squad competing against other parts of Winnipeg.  This led to a bursary from Andrew Mynarski to attend the summer camp at the Peace Gardens, led by Tom Crew. “It gave me an opportunity to make life long friends, learn about myself, help form an identity that was positive and started my developing my leadership skills,” Garth recalls.

High School from 89-92 saw Garth star as a guard with the Sisler Spartans under Andy Erickson.  Prior to committing to the Spartans, Garth was coached by Tec Voc’s own Greg Bouchard and Scott Martin, who as part of WIT, would host open gym nights for all feeder schools.  They wanted Garth to come to Tec, but he stayed with the Spartans.  As things tend to work out, Scott Martin took a job at Sisler while Garth was in grade 12.  Garth played for three years with the Spartans and made the Provincial Championships and had a lot of fun along the way.

Cut to the summer of 93-94 and Garth is rambling along the boardwalk of Gimli passing the patio at the old Lakeview bar and grill when he hears “Hey Garth.”  It’s Scott and he asks, “What are you doing, do you want to help coach the J.Vs?” Since Garth was taking Physical Education at U of M at the time and hoping to get into education, it was a no brainer and a career in coaching and athletics began. 

Garth assisted Scott for a few seasons in the mid nineties and had the chance to coach his younger brother, Graham.  Garth observed that Graham was “equally adept in the classroom as I was on the basketball court.’’ A subtle reference to the academic success Graham went on to achieve. However, Garth did attain his B.Ed. and in June 1998 he found himself a term position at Stanley Knowles. After that he interviewed with Dwight Botting at Tec Voc and was hired as a math teacher under the tutelage of no other than the legendary, Bo Keating.  Garth took over the reigns of the J.V. Basketball team under the intense scrutiny of John Taylor and Joe DiCurzio, two former WIT honourees.

 Not long after, P.E. teacher Gene Lakusiak retires and Garth moves to the Hornet Dome and a decade of intramural dominance begins with Garth and Niki Gusbertti.  The staff had never won so many titles! After Greg Bouchard leaves to DMCI in 2000, Garth takes over the Varsity program.  He describes the first year as “a learning experience in balancing basketball development and people development.” However, always up for a challenge, Garth perseveres and this challenging bunch of players, “only strengthened my resolve to be there for these kids who are in need of a positive role model.”

Oddly enough this situation was the cause of a debilitating shoulder injury for Garth.  Due to the stress of coaching Garth began to grind his teeth at night.  He went to the dentist to find a solution.  How could grinding his teeth at night cause such shoulder pain?  The Dentist couldn’t come up with an answer.   After telling his wife, Carrie, about the conundrum, Carrie had the solution….”at night you grind your teeth and I can’t sleep… So I punch you in the shoulder to make you stop.” Ah marriage!  Simple solutions to complex problems.

Garth became the longest tenured Varsity Basketball coach in Tec Voc history counting 15 seasons on, behind and in front of the bench.  Garth is especially proud of beating St. Paul’s and his old friend Jeff Laping, in the first ever Tier 1 basketball game played in Winnipeg. During the game. Garth argued that Jeff should be thrown out for two bench technical fouls; however, the ref let them play on and now Jeff and Garth can only laugh about it.  Garth still maintains that Jeff “should have been tossed!” In his last year as head coach, Garth guided the Hornets to a Tier 2 City Championship.

Garth’s coaching career also includes a stint as an assistant and then head coach for the Manitoba U17 Basketball team and then a position as an assistant coach to David Crook, brother of another WIT honouree, Gordon Crook, at the University of Winnipeg Wesmen with the men’s basketball team.  Here, he had the distinct pleasure of coaching Daniel Shynkaryk, now WIT chairperson and up until recently, head coach of the varsity program at Tec Voc.  Funny enough, Garth became Dan’s cooperating teacher at Tec, then Dan’s administrator at Elmwood.  There he convinced Dan to take a job at Tec and start the Basketball Academy, which has been running for the past few years.

Garth’s involvement with the WIT tournament spans many years.  In the early days he was involved in preparing the gym for then WIT chair Joe DiCurzio, following his every order.  When Joe retired, Garth took over and continued the tradition of organizing a top notch basketball tournament that all involved could be proud of. His five year tenure saw the tournament maintain its place as a premier tournament, despite the changing landscape of high school basketball in the city and province.

Garth sees WIT as a tournament that “connects young and old. As a participant and player it’s up there with the Wesman Classic as a showcase for talent; it’s exhilarating to be a part of.  For the oldsters, it’s a chance to reconnect with friends and teammates from the larger basketball community and keep up with the exciting basketball action that this city can offer. Any night that you walk into the gym you’ll find people that love basketball the way that you do. More than anything, WIT is a meeting place.”

Basketball has provided Garth with many friendships along the way, opportunities to develop as a leader and transferable skills from the court to the world of work.  As a player, coach, teacher and now educational leader Garth is a consummate supporter and promoter of sport for young people.  He sees basketball as a means by which young people can grow and learn vital life skills. For that, WIT thanks Garth for his service and congratulates him on being named WIT Guest of Honour for 2020! His win-loss record may not be the best at WIT, but as Garth points out, “my attendance at the WIT hospitality room is 100%.” 

 On a side note Garth’s son, Dylan, will be playing in his second WMBA half time game at WIT.  The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.