These days Bill Wedlake is the executive director of the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference, but most Manitoba sports fans will always remember Bill Wedlake as one of the greatest basketball coaches in the province’s history.
Between 1968 and 1984 he was the iconic head coach of the St. John’s High School Tigers where he won the Provincial AAAA Championship in 1978 and 1979. Then he moved on to spend the next 16 years as the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Winnipeg. In 1993, he was the CIS Men’s National Coach of the Year and for many years was the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches of Canada.
Talk at length with Coach Wedlake and that’s the sense you get. You get the sense that this man sees his greatest legacy as that of a coach – a man who created outstanding young citizens while providing those young men with highly successful programs at both the high school and university levels.
But Wedlake did so much more. Although he was a head coach for 32 years and athletic director at the University of Winnipeg for eight years, he did so many things that will last for many, many years.
He was the co-founder of the Winnipeg Invitational Basketball Tournament (The WIT) in 1976. He developed the Christmas tradition of the Wesmen Classic into what it is today by taking it from a 16-team two-division event and making it Canada’s largest basketball tournament with 75 teams in six divisions. He also organized and instructed at the annual University of Winnipeg Summer Basketball Camp, which now provides more than 700 boys and girls with the opportunity to learn and develop both as basketball players and outstanding young citizens.
Wedlake was not just a basketball coach and sports executive, however. He was also an author, writing three books on basketball coaching. He was a broadcaster, providing color commentary on CJOB radio, Global TV and hosting his own show on Shaw TV.
He has also won so many awards it’s impossible to name them all in the space provided. In 1994, he was the recipient of the Mike Spack Award recognizing a lifetime of basketball achievement. In 2001, he won the Clarence Atchison Award from the University of Winnipeg for excellence in community service. In 2005, he was inducted into the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame. And he was honored by the University of Winnipeg by having the fitness centre at the Duckworth Centre on campus named the Bill Wedlake Fitness Centre.
And despite all of this, the 67-year-old Wedlake is still going to work every day, handling the operation of the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference. For the always-busy, always-moving Bill Wedlake there is no idle time. One can only hope he has a moment to be inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame tonight.