August 24, 2017 10:47 am

London Lightning hire new coach for upcoming NBL season

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When the London Lightning start their title defence this fall they’ll be doing it with a new head coach.

The Lightning introduced Keith Vassell as their new head coach Thursday morning, replacing Kyle Julius who stepped down after the team won their third National Basketball League of Canada championship in June.

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Vassell, a Scarborough native, has some NBL Canada experience, serving as the interim coach for the Niagara River Lions last season, posting a 7-11 record. Before that, he was the head coach of the men’s basketball team at Niagara College in the Ontario College Athletic Association.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime, to be a part of the London Lightning and the NBL,” Vassell said in a release.

READ MORE: A very big win, followed by a very big loss for the London Lightning

He becomes London’s fourth head coach in their seven-year history.

Vassell was a member of Canada’s national basketball team, playing from 1989 to 2000. He competed in Olympic qualifying tournaments, the 1999 Pan Am Games, and the World Junior Basketball Championships. Vassell had an 11-year pro career that saw him play in Spain, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal.

In a release, owner-general manager Vito Frijia said he knows the value and quality of basketball Vassell will bring to the organization.

“Keith has a remarkable pedigree in Canada basketball and we are excited for him to continue that success here at the London Lightning,” he said.

READ MORE: London Lightning win 2017 NBL of Canada championship

This past season, London broke their own league record for most wins in a single season with 35. They had 33 in 2012-13, the last time they won the NBL Canada championship. The Lightning went 11-2 in the playoffs.

Vassell will have big shoes to fill. Not only did Julius lead the Lightning to the NBL Canada title last season, he was also named the coach of the year.

It’s not yet known when the Lightning will start their title defence. A new team in Sudbury has joined the league but a schedule hasn’t been released.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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