Written by: John Short
Great birthday present. One of the best ever. And all tied to a new job.
Those few words sum up the response to NAIT Ooks men's basketball coach Slav Kornik last week when he stepped into the office and started preparing for the 2019-20 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season. Announcement of his appointment was made on May 2. His first official day as the head man was only four days later
"Really, this is my birthday," he smiled. "And this is my dream job. I don't see how things could be much better."
Within moments of this brief conversation, Kornik started to prepare personal plans for a Wednesday meeting, his first in the new role with returning team members. One day later, he said, "we'll have open gym," always an unspoken hope that some unexpected visitor will walk (and work) his way onto the team.
No mistake, work is a big part of the Kornik commitment, just as it was as throughout an outstanding playing career with the Ooks, followed by three years as head coach of the Strathcona Lords and one as an assistant with the Archbishop O'Leary Spartans, where his enjoyment of basketball turned into a laser-style focus that probably new direction in his life.
"Before then, my brother and I played all kinds of sports, including soccer. It was kind of expensive to get into hockey."
On and off the basketball court, the new head coach made good use of his time at NAIT, starting in business courses before shifting to the productive radio-television programs. He graduated with a diploma that led him to a job at Global Television.
"I loved it," he recalls. "Interesting people to meet and work with, lots of things to learn. If this (NAIT) job had not come along, I'd have been very happy to stay with Global.
"But I've learned I'm a basketball lifer. This is what I've wanted to do, really, since I started playing at NAIT."
His leadership was evident almost immediately during a four-year run; he was captain of the 2003 CCAA national champions and was recognized as the tournament's most valuable player. The Ooks also grabbed two provincial ACAC titles with Kornik --- a 5-foot-7 fireball, quick, aggressive "and sometimes a little quick-tempered" – the articulate young coach ended his NAIT career as an Academic All-Canadian, ranking second in ACAC assists and third in total points. "I'm calmer as a coach than I was as a player. "I still get emotional but as a coach I know it's essential for the players that I stay focused."
Kornik's unique combination of talents made him in many ways a natural choice for the position. He understands the logic used by athletics manager Jordan Richey: "As a student, I had a lot of things to learn about scheduling, time-management and being prepared for changing situations; I'm sure all of our student-athletes will have to learn some or all of those same things.
"I understand the need to meet various requirements in the classroom and on the floor. The important thing, most of all, is for student-athletes to move forward from their experiences at NAIT so they can contribute in many ways," Which is exactly what head coach Slav Kornik has done.
His efforts and accomplishments have earned him many happy birthdays and a sure shot at many future successes in basketball and education.