BY DAVID LARKINS
For the third time in his career, Larry McKay has been named the Canada West conference’s men’s volleyball coach of the year.
McKay, at the helm of the Winnipeg Wesmen men’s program for the past 29 seasons, was announced by the Canada West as the top coach in the conference on Tuesday.
In addition to McKay’s honour, fifth-year Wesmen libero Logan Brennan was honoured with the Canada West Student-Athlete Community Service Award for his contributions off the court and in the community.
McKay guided the Wesmen to a 15-9 conference record and a 5-seed in the eight-team Canada West playoffs. After upsetting the No. 4-seeded Brandon Bobcats in a first-round playoff series, the Wesmen fell short against the Trinity Western Spartans in the conference semifinals.
The Wesmen will play for a conference bronze medal on Friday at UBC with a berth in nationals on the line.
“The team earns it, not me,” McKay said. “They’re the ones that do the work. That’s why I’m really reluctant to accept the praise. I’m really humbled that they would decide on me. There were four teams that finished ahead of us in conference play and, those four teams, those coaches have done better jobs in that sense than I’ve done and I’m really humbled by that.”
McKay previously won the award in 2001-02 and 2007-08. The University of Winnipeg has been a Canada West member since 2001-02 when the conference absorbed the former Great Plains Athletic Conference.
A two-time national champion coach, McKay will now be up for the national U SPORTS award, which he has won twice (1993, 2002).
The national award will be announced at the national championship tournament in Hamilton March 15.
“How lucky we are at the University of Winnipeg to have a coach with the vision, instincts and abilities of Larry McKay,” U of W director of athletics Dave Crook said. “Having been around university sport for 38 years, I have seen hundreds of leaders and I can honestly say Larry is one of the finest I’ve had the pleasure to meet or work alongside.”
Brennan was singled out for his ongoing volunteerism that is in addition to his exemplary academic standing.
A four-year academic all-Canadian, Brennan was nominated as the University of Winnipeg’s candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship and has been on the Dean’s honour list every year at U of W.
Among the volunteer initiatives close to Brennan’s heart is the Banded Peak Challenge, a charity event that raises funds for Easter Seals Alberta’s Camp Horizon, which gives children with disabilities and medical conditions a chance to attend a fun and engaging summer camp.
In addition to that, Brennan has volunteered his time with initiatives for Ronald McDonald House, Kids Sport Calgary and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, among others.
“The biggest thing that I try to remind myself on those days where it’s hard to keep putting in the time — whether it’s studying or it’s volunteering — it’s that somebody else did it for you before, and it’s the idea to help the next one in line,” Brennan said. “There’s so many coaches that I can’t even begin to mention all their names as well as my parents and family that set that example for me, and the Wesmen program is a prime example of that. I’ve been given an incredible opportunity that I probably wouldn’t have been given at many other U SPORTS schools and to pay it forward or give back to the community that has given me a lot is without a doubt something that has to happen.”
McKay heaped praise upon Brennan’s leadership away from the game.
“He’s an exceptional young man that has amassed an academic record second to none, and has an outside academic community service record that is so lengthy it’s incredible,” McKay said. “I simply admire the young man and am grateful to have had him on our team.”