Brad Campbell certainly has a purple stain on his career to this point. The current men’s basketball head coach first arrived at Western as a player in 1991.
“[Brad] was a pivotal player because of his toughness and versatility,” Craig Boydell, Western’s head coach from 1991-2005, said.
“He could find a dozen ways to get it done and he had the will to make it happen.”
As a ‘skinny kid’ from Nepean, Ontario, when Campbell arrived at Western he was a smooth fit on the team as a guard or forward.
The 1991-92 season carried low expectations for the Mustangs after Boydell lost all five starters from the 1990-91 national championship team. However, the team made the postseason and got knocked out in a heart-palpitating overtime game.
“He used to define himself as crafty and you could see from the twinkle in his eye that he was just that,” Boydell said. “I saw a bright future for him and our team.”
By the 1997-98 season, Campbell was an assistant coach for Boydell. He assisted for the next six years, which included four trips to the national championships in Halifax. It is this gradual rise up the ranks that Campbell believes fuels his passion for the Western environment.
“I love coaching at Western and I have an incredible passion for this school and this program,” he said. “As a former player and assistant coach and Western graduate, my ties here run deep.”
Campbell saw some time at the helm in 2004 when Boydell was battling illness, but he would permanently take the reigns from the Western coaching legend in the 2006 season.
“When I took over as head coach [three years ago] our team was young and inexperienced,” he said. “Now this group has matured nicely and expects to win every time we play. Over the past few years, we’ve also been able to bring in some of the best high school talent in the province.”
The fruits of Campbell’s labour have been paying dividends this season, as the ’Stangs currently hold home-court advantage throughout the postseason and look like a candidate to knock off the perennially strong Carleton Ravens.
The balanced scoring threats of Brad Smith, Matt Curtis, Ryan Barbeau, Keenan Jeppesen, Alex Brzozowicz and Garrett Olexiuk have made for a versatile, confident Purple and Silver squad.
Players recognize Campbell’s strengths in bringing the program back to prominence.
“Coach Campbell excels in player development,” Jeppesen said. “He is also meticulous when it comes to game preparation and I’d say he has a knack for exploiting our opponents’ weaknesses.”
This evidence is buttressed by Campbell’s testament that he is right where he needs to be.
“Coaching has so many elements that I have a passion for. I love to teach, which is a fundamental aspect of coaching, and working with driven young adults who want to learn and improve is rewarding and a lot of fun. I also love competition — the raw emotion and intensity of competition is something I can never get enough of.”
In tonight’s game versus the Windsor Lancers, the Mustangs can accomplish two goals: a victory would secure them the Ontario University Athletics West divisional crown and it would also send the team back to nationals.
“We feel we have the talent and experience to win it all this year. This season, we’re looking to compete for a national title,” Campbell said.
“Western is traditionally a strong program,” Jeppesen added.
“Our ultimate goal is a national championship.”
“This team has the talent and depth to win it all,” Boydell asserted. “They can create match-up problems for any team, but you also have to be lucky and avoid injuries. More than one national championship has been decided on factors out of your control.”
So while Campbell’s laundry might be stained, you won’t see him reaching for the bleach anytime soon. In fact, the colour purple has settled naturally into his wardrobe and into his life.
The men play the Windsor Lancers tonight at Alumni Hall. Tip-off is 7 p.m.