National Coaches Week: The Journey From Player to Coach

Photo courtesy of NAIT Ooks
Photo courtesy of NAIT Ooks

Slav Kornik is an early riser.

For the last seven of his 15 years in journalism, he worked with Global Edmonton as an online journalist/producer.

"I got up around 3:40, or 3:50 am and made sure every night that I would have my lunch ready and my clothes ready," says Kornik. "I had it down to a science."

His schedule, which also included on-air reports, would have him finishing work around 1:00 pm. The timeline left Kornik plenty of daylight to follow his other passion, coaching basketball.

Kornik has had various coaching gigs over the years. From head coach of Edmonton's Strathcona High School Lords senior boys basketball team to assistant coach for the University of Alberta Golden Bears men's hoop squad, he continued to develop his skills.

This dedication also meant balancing evening practices with the early wake for work.

Adjusting to a new role

The early morning media hours would soon change. On May 6, 2019, it was officially announced that Kornik would be taking on the head coaching duties for the NAIT Ooks men's basketball team.

"I'm still an early riser," admits Kornik. "I will get up at 6:00 am or so, which gives me time to go over practice plans and other challenges that comes with the opportunity of being a first-year coach at the post-secondary level." For him, passing up this opportunity wasn't an option entertained. He says he's enjoying the challenges thrown his way.

Kornik is no stranger to NAIT or the ACAC as he was an outstanding basketball player for the school. During his four-year career, the Ooks captured back-to-back ACAC banners (2002-2004) which were highlighted by a Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national crown in 2002-2003 when they defeated Dawson College 85-84 in Longueuil, Quebec.

Championship state of mind

Kornik was MVP of the CCAA finals. A four-time ACAC North All-Conference selection, he is currently ranked third in ACAC career assists leaders with a 485 total in 94 games and sixth in ACAC career scoring behind 1,432 points.

As a sports journalist, it is sometimes your job to be critical of a team, player or coach.

How will Kornik react is he sees such about NAIT, and the byline is not bearing his name?

"Nobody is going to be more critical of me as I am of myself," says Kornik. "I critique what I do every day."

After a 6:00 am practice, and during our interview, Kornik was already wondering what he could have done better.

Always interested to learn, Kornik said he has taken "bits and pieces" from everyone he has worked with during his coaching career. From coaching the U15 Basketball Alberta boys team to university student-athletes, the number one lesson taken from his experiences is clear. "You can take things from (other) coaches, but at the end of the day, you have to be yourself."

Along with being yourself, Kornik says you have to work with your players and be able to communicate with them.

Be yourself

When asked about Kornik's hiring, NAIT Athletics Manager Jordan Richey stated in a media release: "We are so proud to name Slav the new NAIT men's basketball head coach. Not only was Slav a previous NAIT student but he was also captain of our 2003 CCAA national champion men's basketball team.

"Slav's knowledge of NAIT, coaching experience with Basketball Alberta and the U of A, and strong leadership skills leave no doubt that he will be a successful coach at NAIT."