Athletes are usually the ones who grab the spotlight when they excel in their sports.
But someone on the sidelines is grabbing the attention in the Okanagan right now.
His name is Dino Gini, and he’s a volunteer who has spent more than three decades shining as a champion for basketball and the young athletes who want to learn the game.
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Friday night saw the Kelowna coach sitting proudly at courtside as his dream of hosting accredited college basketball in the city became a reality before a hometown crowd.
“Historically, it’s pretty exciting,” Gini told Global News.
The Okanagan College Coyotes men’s and women’s teams hosted a double header against the Capilano University Blues and Douglas College Royals on Friday and Saturday at the Immaculata High School Gym, marking their first home-games as members of the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST).
The Coyotes spent a year playing exhibition games in preparation for their acceptance into PACWEST.
Gini has helped Kelowna high school and university basketball players hone their skills and has always dreamed of developing a program that was accessible for Okanagan students at the college level.
He assembled a team of volunteers to help him realize that dream two years ago, forming the Kelowna College Basketball Society, where he serves as president.
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Sponsorship for their basketball teams has been essential to the self-funded team.
“The gym is painted with our corporate sponsors banners tonight,” Gini said. “Basically they make us exist.”
Money raised at events throughout the year ensure the team is outfitted and their travel and accommodation bills paid for.
Gini volunteers all his time.
“It’s good stuff,” said parent Peter Ruocco. “It’s good for the Ginis to get this all going. They did a great job.”
His son Andrew Gini is coach of the women’s team, while he leads the men’s team. The rest of the Gini family can always be found lending a hand in the organization of events.
Players were nervous heading out to play for the hometown crowd Friday night.
“It’s a big thing for us,” 20-year-old Coyotes power forward Nicole Hart said. “Being one of the only teams outside the Lower Mainland and Island is awesome. It’s great to have this in the community.”
Hart’s family also lives and breathes basketball. Her 6’10” brother Alex plays for Switzerland’s top division basketball team, the Pully Lausanne Foxes after graduating from the University of California Santa Barbara. He was also coached by Gini when he attended high school in Kelowna.
While both Coyote teams lost their games to the visiting teams Friday night (Men 112-70, Women 67-57), they have a chance of redemption Saturday.
The Coyote women’s team takes to the Immaculata High School gym on Saturday at 1 p.m, the men 3 p.m.
Both teams have won two games and lost three this season.
Players remain hopeful despite the loss.
“We just keep getting better,” Coyotes guard Danielle Ruocco said.
Gini is thrilled for what they are building for Okanagan College (OC) athletics.
“We’re starting the base for the future of OC basketball for a long time coming.”