From Stinger To Gaiter

Former League MVP Kyle Desmarais Returns to Concordia—But This Time as an Opponent

Former Concordia Stinger Kyle Desmarais (left photo, middle, and above photo, left) returned to the Concordia Gymnasium in a Bishop’s Gaiters uniform this past Thursday night. The fifth-year player opened up on his time as a Stinger, and his time with head coach John Dore (above). Photo Shaun Michaud

The Concordia Gymnasium is no longer Kyle Desmarais’s home. It is no longer a place where Stingers fans can celebrate his three-point shots and athletic plays. When he falls to the ground after being fouled, Concordia’s coaches will no longer plead his case. Instead, they’ll defend their own players.

This is the new reality for Desmarais, who left the Maroon and Gold for the Bishop’s Gaiters this past summer. In the first matchup of the season between the Stingers and the Gaiters, the now 26-year-old guard led his new team to victory, scoring 18 points in a 76-69 win.

If Desmarais took any pleasure in exacting revenge on his former squad, he tried not to show much of it.

“It was nice to come back [to Concordia],” Desmarais said. “It was nice to have a good game.”

Once upon a time, Desmarais was a huge part of the Concordia Stingers, leading the team to back-to-back provincial championships in 2011 and 2012, earning himself All-Canadian and co-MVP honours in the process.

“I had a lot of fun,” Desmarais said. “Winning is fun. For the majority of our games, we did just that. We won games. We had a winning record in the conference every year that I played and it was always a very close group of guys on and off the court. So I really enjoyed that.”

While Desmarais maintained a great rapport with some teammates at Concordia, playing alongside fellow former league MVP Evens Laroche and current Stinger Xander Jean, it was a different story with coach John Dore.

“We just didn’t see eye to eye,” said Desmarais.

Following the game, Desmarais and the Stingers head coach exchanged a short handshake before they each walked their separate ways. There was no conversation or pleasantries shared between the two. If you blinked, you may have missed it.

The handshake was “respectful,” according to Desmarais, but it’s clear that whatever positive relationship was once present between the two has dissipated. Desmarais and Dore have had their differences, differences which ultimately prompted the fifth-year star to leave Concordia.

“I watched the other coaches in the [Réseau de sport étudiant du Québec] conference,” Desmarais said. “I spoke to them more than I spoke to my own coach. This was after I asked [Dore] to stay in contact with me, stay in close contact with the teams, make sure guys were staying in shape.”

Desmarais revealed that despite his team’s success in the conference, he felt that Dore didn’t do enough to ensure the team could accomplish more when it reached the nationals. This prompted his decision to join the Gaiters, a squad that lost their last two provincial championship games to the McGill Redmen.

In 2011 and 2012, both years that saw the Stingers reach the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Final 8 national tournament, the Stingers lost every single game they played.

“I didn’t believe that we could compete at the national level and for me it’s all about winning and winning at the highest level,” Desmarais said.

Kyle Desmarais surrounded by his teammates during the game on Thursday Nov. 14 2014. Photo Shaun Michaud

The final blow to Desmarais and Dore’s relationship occurred before the start of the 2013-2014 season, when Desmarais attended the annual draft for the National Basketball League of Canada on the same day as the Stingers’ first practice of the year.

“Since I hadn’t heard from John [Dore], I wasn’t going to reach out and tell him what my plans were,” Desmarais said. “After he heard that I was at the draft, and that I didn’t come to practice, I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

After not being selected in the NBL draft, Desmarais returned to Concordia. Upon his return, neither he nor Coach Dore reached out to each other to address the situation.

“No one was going to contact the other one and be like ‘listen, I messed up,’” Desmarais said. “Eventually his door closed and that was the end of our relationship.”

Desmarais still has respect for Dore and his accolades, but confesses he wanted more out of his experience with the long-tenured bench boss.

“I [also] have a few friends on [Bishop’s] that I played with at Vanier, but at the end of the day, I’m a Stinger, they’re Gaiters. It’s the enemy. As long as we play against each other, there [are] no friends on the basketball court.” —Stingers forward Michael Fosu

“He’s done some great things in the past, I just needed more out of that situation,” he said.

While Desmarais ended up missing the entire season last year, he did finish his undergraduate degree in economics at Concordia, continued to train and played in a recreational league before leaving for Bishop’s University in time for the new season.

At Bishop’s, Desmarais feels he’s in a more hands-on and collaborative environment with his coaches and teammates.

“Right now, it’s a very tight-knit group here,” he said. “The team is close, as well as the coaching staff.

“I’m constantly asked for my feedback from the coach and the assistant coach after practices, after games, after workouts, after training sessions.”

Desmarais believes the pieces are in place to capture a national title with his new team, and is clearly focused on the task at hand in his final year of CIS eligibility. While he does miss his family, his friends and the city of Montreal, a fresh start at Bishop’s seems to be ideal for him.

“I think being out of [Montreal] is the best thing for me,” he said. “I’ve got a great group of guys [at Bishop’s], a great coaching staff, the basketball [team is] good.

“This is a really great situation for me.”

Back at Concordia, not everybody on the Stingers basketball squad feels as if Coach Dore has slighted them.

“I have a good relationship with Coach [Dore] on my part,” said Stinger guard Mukiya Post.

“I feel close to Coach [Dore]. I feel like I could, for the most part, reach out to coach [Dore] and speak to him on a bunch of levels.”

Post transferred from Bishop’s to Concordia last season, and missed out on an opportunity to play with Desmarais as a teammate. However, both players are still friends and have worked out and hung out together.

Regardless of what Desmarais may feel about the Stingers or their head coach, it doesn’t appear to be any of the Stingers players’ concern. The Stingers have clearly moved on from the Desmarais era.

“He’s just another player,” said Coach Dore.

“He’s just a regular player to us,” added Stingers forward Michael Fosu, who played with Kyle Desmarais in 2012.

“I [also] have a few friends on [Bishop’s] that I played with at Vanier [College], but at the end of the day, I’m a Stinger, they’re Gaiters. It’s the enemy. As long as we play against each other, there [are] no friends on the basketball court.”