Ryerson’s men’s basketball head coach Roy Rana took a sabbatical for the upcoming season, leaving big shoes to fill. Lead assistant coach Patrick Tatham has stepped into those shoes as the interim head coach.
“I feel good,” Tatham said. “It’s a little nerve-racking, because I have no real head-coaching experience at this level, but I have a great group of guys. They trust me and I trust them. They believe in me and I believe in them.
“As a young head coach, the biggest thing I bring to the table is I’ve played in the shoes the guys are in. They understand I’ve been here before, and they trust in what I’m saying.”
Tatham takes over one of the top university basketball programs in the country. After tying a program record-high 17 regular-season wins last season, the Rams hosted the CIS national championship and won bronze — their first-ever CIS medal — at the 2015 Final 8. Tatham isn’t necessarily focused on returning to the nationals for another chance to win it all.
“This year I literally just want to gain experience, go through a whole season doing it the Ryerson way, doing it my way, and winning some games, and learning how to coach through adversity as a head coach,” Tatham said.
He describes “his way” as playing up-tempo basketball. At six-foot-seven and 220 pounds, the Brampton, Ont., native played both forward spots on the Canadian Junior National Team from 2002 to 2004, and was named Mr. Basketball Canada in 2002. He played collegiate basketball at Cleveland State University, where he earned a BA in communications. He suited up professionally in Switzerland, Germany, Syria and Qatar over a three-year span.
Tatham describes his game as “very aggressive and tenacious,” adding, “You can expect to see the guys being very gritty, tenacious. They’ll play a fast style of basketball and look to shoot a ton of threes for sure.”
The interim head coach said he wants his team to play a hybrid style of basketball that draws upon the small lineups, shooting and pace of the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.
“It should be fun basketball.”
Beyond that, Tatham isn’t looking to change much. He says the team culture that Rana has established over the years will remain.
“We’ve had great guys come in and buy into the culture. The kids that are coming in now … the culture here is bigger than them and it’s going to stay intact.”
An assistant coach with Ryerson for the past five seasons, Tatham helped lead to the team a pair of Final 8 appearances. He served as the team’s head coach during a trip to China in the summer of 2013.
Before coming to Ryerson, Tatham served as head coach for a season at Stoneridge Preparatory School in California, where he learned a lot from the coaches who visited to recruit his players. NCAA coaches from West Coast schools, including UCLA, USC, Oregon and Oregon State, attended Stoneridge practices and gave Tatham advice on coaching strategies, practice planning and player management.
One of the Rams players Tatham manages is Jean-Victor Mukama. The six-foot-seven guard is entering his third year at Ryerson, where he’s always been able to count on Tatham.
“Personally, he’s helped me a lot,” Mukama said. “Me and Patrick have a great relationship. He deals with a lot of young kids coming in because he’s usually the one here early in the morning doing the individual with us and working on our game. He brings a lot of passion in us. He doesn’t let the young guys shy away. He encourages them to take the lead.”
Tatham aims to inspire youth to follow their dreams through basketball. His dad introduced him to the sport at a young age. Once he picked it up, his two younger sisters, Tamara and Alisha, followed suit. With their physical gifts, hard work and talent, it wasn’t long before they all represented the national team, earned college basketball scholarships in the United States and played professionally. Their family home is now affectionately called the “House of Hoops.”
“Basketball is just like everything, it’s like love to me,” Tatham said. “Other than my wife and Jesus, basketball is right up there. I don’t know what I’d be doing without basketball. It’s been a great vehicle for me in my life to get where I am today.”
Tatham retired from playing professional basketball at the age of 26, setting his sights on a career in coaching. He is passionate about his line of work, and hopes serving as Ryerson’s interim head coach will help him land a permanent head-coaching position.
“My favourite thing about Patrick is he’s a very serious coach,” Mukama said. “He takes his coaching job very seriously. He has a great relationship with pretty much the whole team. He can be a kid sometimes, he can have a lot of fun, he has a lot of passion and he’s really funny. I think his passion for the game and his genuine relationship with the players are great attributes of his.”
Mukama is among six returning players who received regular playing time last year. Five others who were on the team but didn’t play much or at all will see increased roles, and a few new faces will round out the roster.
“I think we’re almost a little better than we were last year. It’s really about chemistry right now,” Tatham said.
“We always say as an assistant, you gotta wait until you’re one seat over in that head coaching spot, and you’ll be able to tell if you’re really ready or not,” he said, laughing. “That time is now. I’m one seat over, so let’s see.”
Fans will get their first look at the new head coach and his new squad in regular season action when they host the Toronto Varsity Blues on Nov. 4 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.