Photos by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor
Head coach of the men’s basketball team Patrick Tatham has had an illustrious career. While he was an athlete he played Division 1 basketball at Cleveland State University. He moved on to play overseas for the Sions Herens Basket in Switzerland and the Itzehoe Eagles in Germany, with brief stints in Qatar and Syria.
Following his playing career, Tatham transitioned to coaching. This included jobs with Stoneridge Preparatory School in the states and the Maine Red Claws of the NBA G League. After five years of being assistant coach for the Ryerson University Rams, Tatham became interim head coach from 2015-2016. Now, he is the head coach of our McMaster Marauders. Simply put, the man has seen it all.
Taking part in so many positions was a huge learning experience for Tatham. His ability to transition with ease is one of the reasons for his accomplishments.
“It’s been a nice journey. When I was at Stoneridge I had no clue what I was doing. I just did what I thought I knew to do based off my coaches at Cleveland State. Then coming back home to Stoneridge I took whatever we learned at Cleveland state to try and help the culture at Ryerson because there was no culture at all, we were one of the worst teams in Canada. It was like rolling the dice, you have nothing to lose. Just roll the dice and see what works and what doesn’t work and then make the necessary changes,” said Tatham.
As the saying goes, fortune favours the bold, and it certainly did with Tatham’s coaching style. When he began coaching at Ryerson, the team was struggling. However, the rough patch presented an opportunity for growth given that the team was willing to take risks and innovate.
“I use that blueprint now, here at Mac, there’s already a base and foundation here but it’s about me cleaning up a few things. Just doing all the necessary stuff to make sure all the guys are successful, not just on the court but in the classrooms,” said Tatham.
Tatham’s journey from high school to Division 1 basketball was quite different than what you see nowadays. Typically, top Canadian basketball prospects are noticed either before high school or midway through. Then they go to a preparatory high school in the United States. If they’re good enough, they go to a top college. However, this is not always the case, and it wasn’t for Tatham. He went to Chinguacousy Secondary School in Brampton and from there attended Cleveland State University.
Young Canadian athletes are often told that if they want to follow their dreams, they have to leave Canada. Fewer and fewer Division one scouts are looking to the north for elite-level talent, as the United States is already filled to the brim with talented basketball players. As a result, top Canadian hoopers tend to relocate to the U.S. during high school. Tatham was able to stay home for high school and then play for a top school down south, and he’d like to see more Canadian athletes do the same. In order to accomplish this, Tatham says that U sports needs to do more to incentivize young Canadian athletes to stay at home.
‘’If we want to retain some of these kids to stay home and play at the U sports level, which is pretty high in my eyes, U sports has to take it upon themselves to really find a way to make the entire playing field very balanced. Offering a little bit more money even if it’s only to five or six scholarship athletes, but I think someway somehow we’ve got to get to a point where we can retain some of these kids that go south . . . and instead get them on a scholarship for four or five years [at home],” said Tatham.
Retention of top Canadian athletes would bring U sports to another level. Can you imagine a league where Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played for McMaster or RJ Barrett played for the University of Toronto? This would bring another degree of respect not only to U sports, but to Canadian athletics in general.
Beyond his vision of a brighter future for Canadian university sports, Tatham focuses on his coaching style. He aims to ensure that his coaching staff is setting a high bar for their program and other programs around the league. He and his staff choose a philosophy of leading by example, setting a precedent of excellence for the team to follow.
“I think within our culture it’s really from the head, heading all the way down to the players and managers. I’ve got to be as consistent as I possibly can and then hopefully my coaches can follow suit and then after the coaches follow suit we all put it down to the players and then the players can follow suit,” said Tatham.
Tatham, or PT as his players know him, uses tough love when it comes to coaching, making sure to always tell players what’s on his mind, whether it’s good or bad. This transparency ensures mutual respect between the coach and team—they always know what he’s thinking, and the team can focus on improving.
Outside of performing on the court, the program has a strong presence in the community. The team holds a yearly summer camp where kids from over Hamilton can come and learn from some of the city’s best athletes. It presents an opportunity for growth, not only for the kids who come to learn how to hoop better, but also for the team and coaches.
“This is the only university in the city of Hamilton so being able to have 200 kids coming to camp for two weeks is something special,” Tatham said. “A lot of the younger kids are going to look up to some of our players and when our players graduate maybe some of those young kids will come to play at Mac. Being able to do the program is not just a great thing for our program but for the city because I think the city needs more basketball camps and I’m just grateful to be a part of it.”
Younger kids from the Hamilton area however are not the only ones being mentored and inspired. Players on the men’s basketball team have access to a mentorship program where men’s basketball alumni come in and talk about life after Mac. The alumni share how the skills they learnt through the basketball program helped them later on in life.
“We’ve been doing a mentor panel for two years. I think that’s been the biggest success in my two years, I think the guys really enjoy the mentor panel and I think alumni enjoy coming back and talking to the current players. So far that’s been the most gratifying thing,” Tatham said.
All in all, the program is in great hands. From competing at an extremely high level as a player to competing for greatness as a coach, Tatham has seen it all. His level of experience and understanding, as well as his connection with fellow staff and players, will be key for the team this season and the years ahead.