Mike Katz, the all-time winningest coach in Humber history with 318 wins, was named the assistant coach for Team Canada during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. With Canada's last Olympic basketball medal coming in 1936, the 2000 team brought unprecedented awareness for Canada Basketball throughout the country and across the globe.
Despite failing to reach the medal stage, Katz and Canada Basketball defeated perennial power and the defending world champions Yugoslavia, 83-75.
Returning to Humber basketball after the Olympics, Katz led the Hawks to the program's fifth consecutive national championship.
OY MATE! COACH MIKE KATZ RETURNS FROM SYDNEY WITH A NEW JOB, TEAM, AND OUTLOOK
October 19, 2000
by Luc Hebert
The head coach of Humber's men's basketball team returns to the college after serving as an assistant coach for the Canadian Olympic team in Sydney, Australia.
Mike Katz tried to convey the message that he was under much less pressure than Team Canada head coach Jay Triano.
"The stakes are higher and everybody's watching," Katz said. "'The Olympics is the highest level of basketball outside of the NBA championships in terms of what seems to generate interest, but I think the pressure is never the same as an assistant coach than as a head coach."
Although Katz played an important role in the national basketball program, he had to make some sacrifices that were not easy. For five weeks, Katz coached the team in pre-Olympic tournaments in Hawaii and Hong Kong before taking on the world in Sydney, which meant being away from his family.
"It wasn't easy. My wife had to deal with certain issues in which I would usually be involved," he said. "It was something that my wife and family understood. The Olympics was a unique experience."
That's not to say that all of the work and sacrifices did not come without rewards. Katz said he enjoyed getting to know the players off the court and meeting other people from the basketball world.
"I really enjoyed the off-court experience because we were a really tight group," said Katz.
Katz added he wasn't fatigued after the Games. He said he isn't burned out because he always finds a place in his life for coaching basketball. "I seem to thrive in that area of my life," Katz said.
He is actually excited about coming back because he made some positive changes to Humber's system based on what he used with the National team, Katz said.
"As a coach, you're always trying to get better, and what better way than to see the best teams in the world execute their stuff," said Katz.
Katz has worked with Basketball Canada in the past when he served as a head coach for a Canadian team participating in the World University Games and as an assistant coach at the World Championships.
When Jay Triano was chosen as the National team's head coach, Katz's name came up as a good candidate for someone who would work well with Triano.
"He gave me an awful lot of responsibility which I was quite thankful for," said Katz. "We saw the game with a similar vision, which made for a pretty good team."
Katz worked with the National team, which included NBA players Steve Nash and Todd McCullough. Despite the talent and experience the team had, he didn't change his approach in practices or in games.
He said that even though the players were more accomplished, many of the things he taught players on the Olympic squad he also teaches to his team at Humber and to both of his children who play competitive basketball.
"Basketball skills have to be refined and repeated constantly, so you find yourself doing a lot of the same individual work and drills that you would with lower calibre players," Katz said.
Whichever approach he and Triano may have taken, it certainly contributed to the success of the team, which fell just short of qualifying for the medal round. The guys' upset teams like Australia and Yugoslavia on their way towards finishing first in their pool during round robin play and posting a 5-2 record for the tournament.
"It was disappointing, not playing well against France,” said Katz. "But two and a half weeks later, putting it into perspective, I think we did very well."
Katz believes the team he worked with was about as good as Canada will ever be able to produce. He did say if the core of the team would stay together, there might be a future in Canadian basketball.
"I think this year's performance indicates that we do have a future, but you're only an injury away," Katz said. "You can't really predict."
The Canadians have set a standard that Katz hopes the team will improve upon, but he is conscious of the fact that qualifying again is not a guarantee.
"We have to understand how difficult it was just to qualify. Only two teams got to go from our zone," said Katz. "Just getting there is not a guarantee."
Katz is unsure of his future with Basketball Canada. Next year the National team will qualify for the World Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana.
"I have a feeling the team will be committed to staying together at least for that," said Katz.
If the team does stay together, it would almost assure that Katz retain his position.
"I'm just enjoying right now, reflecting on the past summer and working with the team here," said Katz.