50 YEARS OF ATHLETICS

FROM THE ARCHIVES: ALAJAJIAN HIRED AS PLAYER-COACH

FROM THE ARCHIVES: ALAJAJIAN HIRED AS PLAYER-COACH

October 1, 1974
by Steve Lloyd

Everyone should know by now what effects Soviet coaching has had on hockey, but not everyone is aware of what Soviet coaching has done for basketball.

This year we have a first-hand opportunity to find out.

Armenag Alajajian, who contributed to the Soviet Union’s upset victory over the United States at the 1974 World Championship, will be playing for and coaching the men’s basketball team at Humber.

The 44-year old former coach of the Central Army team in Moscow came to Toronto three weeks ago as a landed immigrant with his and two children Karen, 16, and Arthur, 14.

Mr. Alajajian’s signing was announced last Tuesday.

Humber’s President Gordon Wragg expressed his delight at the college securing such an outstanding personality.

“With Humber dropping the football team, the emphasis in sport will shift to hockey and basketball,” he said.

As a player and a coach, Mr. Alajajian has accomplished what few can match.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, he moved to the Soviet Union at the age of 17 and attended Erevan State University where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Culture in 1951.

He remained at the university as an instructor until 1953 when he joined the Soviet National Team as a player during the years 1953-54, 1958, 1961, and 1963-66.  During his coaching tenure, he led the Soviets to the Cup of Europe Championship in 1969 and 1971.

In addition, he played on the European championship teams of 1953-1961 and 1963-1965.  He was a member of the silver medal team at the Tokyo Olympics and three times won the Most Valuable Player award in the USSR.

Mr. Alajajian has definite ideas about what to expect from Canadian basketball and Canadian players.

“I understand that there are good players here in Canada, but they need good coaching,” he said.  “All I want are players who want to learn to play good basketball.”

Peter Maybury, of the Athletics Department, feels Mr. Alajajian’s presence at the college would attract players to Humber who wouldn’t normally come here.

“If I were a player and wanted to be coached by the best, I would come to Humber,” he said.

Mr. Alajajian and Humber came together after Mr. Maybury placed an ad in a Toronto newspaper.

“I had interviewed a number of candidates for the position, but none came up to expectations,” he said.  “So as a last-ditch effort we placed an ad in the newspaper, and Mr. Alajajian replied, so naturally we signed him. 

During last year, Mr. Alajajian was the head coach of the Central Basketball School in Moscow, and in recognition of his contribution to the game, a high school in Taskent was named after him.

Mr. Alajajian has gone back to school himself, enrolling in a “Learning English” program at Humber’s Keesdale campus.

He explains this move by saying in order to teach good basketball to Canadians he must first learn to speak English well.

Last year’s Humber team finished with an 8-10 record in the Southern Division of the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association but was defeated in the playoffs.

Training camp opened yesterday (Sept. 30) for this year’s team.

Note: Armenag finished the season with the top free throw percentage in the OCAA at 81.9.