Concordia Stingers men’s basketball coach Rastko Popovic has high expectations for his team
Last season, the Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team put a new man behind the bench when former head coach John Dore retired after 26 seasons with the team. With large shoes to fill, the program put the team into the hands of former Stingers player and assistant coach Rastko Popovic.
Popovic played with the Stingers from 2001 to 2006 and was assistant coach of the women’s team from 2006 to 2013, before joining the men’s coaching staff as an assistant. Popovic, who has represented the maroon and gold for 15 years, said he was happy to get the opportunity to become head coach.
“I have a lot of Concordia pride. You’re not going to find many people who are more proud of being a part of the Stingers family than me,” Popovic said. “To me, this is truly a privilege. Not many people get that opportunity, and every guy who comes through the program I expect them to do well in school and on the floor.”
In his first season as head coach, Popovic helped lead the team to a 10-6 record which was good enough for second place in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec division (RSEQ). The team made it to the playoffs but were eliminated by the Université de Québec à Montréal Citadins in the first round.
Popovic said that he learned a lot in his first year as head coach, and felt that the team did fairly well. However, Popovic added that he knows the team needs to improve if they want to become the best team, not just in Quebec, but in Canada as well.
“I thought we had a pretty decent year but we realized we had to upgrade our roster at certain positions,” Popovic said. “We worked hard this summer as a team and as a coaching staff to get better individually and as a team. I think we learned that we still got ways to go to get to the top of the conference like we used to be.”
Heading into the upcoming season, Popovic said he is hoping his team will build on their successes from last year. Popovic said the team has a lot of talent and depth compared to last year which will help the team perform well down the stretch.
“We have a lot of depth behind our starters and that’s something we didn’t have last year which hurt us,” Popovic said. “We would get in foul trouble and get injuries. Now we’re better suited to face any challenges that we’re going to have.”
When asked about the overall goal for the season, Popovic was quick to answer that the team always expects to be at the top, adding that, as competitors, the whole team is always hungry to win.
“We want to be in the championship game in the [RSEQ division] and have a chance to go to Nationals,” Popovic said. “Our goal this year is to win the league.”
Before the Stingers play their first game of the regular season, the team will be playing Queen’s University on Sept. 30, and will be participating in three tournaments. The first of those tournaments is the Concordia Classic which will see the team play three games in three days between Oct. 7 and Oct. 9.
Last season, the team won the Concordia Classic, and Popovic is hoping that his team will do the same this year. While some teams use these tournaments as practice for the regular season, Popovic and his team are always looking to win.
Popovic said that in order to be successful this season and get those wins, it will take great shooting as well as an all-star defense to get to the top.
“I think last year we were a great defensive team but offensively we weren’t very consistent,” Popovic said. “If we take better shots, our percentages will go up and we’ll score more points and win more games, especially if our defense is as good as last year.”
The Stingers will play their first game of the regular season at home against Bishop’s University on Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.