KAMLOOPS — When Ken Olynyk came to Thompson Rivers University in 2003 as the athletic director — still the University College of the Cariboo at the time — the athletic department was still stuck in its old college days.
"Prior to coming, we were CCAA, Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association, and PacWest, and then over that time we transitioned into full U Sports," said Olynyk. "So we have all of our team now in U Sports. We've grown in terms of the ability to help our students through scholarships."
It's now to the point where student-athletes can access hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, so they can focus on their sport.
This year is fourth annual Wolfpack Scholarship Breakfast — something Olynyk started — and on Thursday morning the 65 year old took the opportunity to announcement his retirement as athletic director.
"I just thought it would, because we're hosting the [men's soccer] nationals, and I was the one that put that bid together along with support from Matt [Milovick] and other people," said Olynyk. "I felt with the breakfast I started, the nationals, I wanted to see these two things through. So it made it a natural thing that I would go at the end of December."
Olynyk said on Thursday it's bittersweet to be stepping aside, but it's also the right time. He leaves behind a legacy of taking the Wolfpack into U Sports, successfully landing two national champions — the men's volleyball nationals in 2010 and the men's soccer nationals coming up in November.
He's also made life better for student-athletes through initiatives like the scholarship breakfast.
Olynyk said he has laid the foundation for his successor. It's now a matter of bringing the 11 varsity teams to the point where all can compete for a national championship.
"I think we need to look at trying to make every one of our teams as competitive as possible, and give them the support that's necessary," he noted. "I think we have a bit of a foundation, and as we move forward for the successor that will be the new director of athletics and recreation looks at and they are going to be the one that try and push that forward."
Once he officially retires at the end of the year, it won't be the end of the his work in the Kamloops sports community. He said he'll be helping organize the U-15 and U-17 boys' national basketball championships that are coming to the Tournament Capital of Canada in August 2018.
"No. 1, I think I'm going to spend a little time with my children and my wife," said Olynyk. "Really, I have no immediate plans, but I know that I'm not just going to sit at home. We got some things I want to look at trying to accomplish."
In between all that, the Olynyk family will be going down south to watch Kelly play with the Heat.
"We'll have a couple trips to Miami, I'm sure."
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