October 21, 2017



I thank you for remembering that it took Bill Disbrow 12 years to win his first British Columbia High School Basketball Championship at Richmond High – that’s countless hours, weeks, and years that Disbrow carved out (of his own personal time) to spend in the gym coaching athletes. He too was honing his coaching skills, and hammering home (or out) his own strict coaching philosophy.  Bill was building a ‘Colts’ program from the ground up and would always let his team’s results do the talking. Sure there were some eye-rolling years, but which program did not have those. The end achieved fully justified Disbrow’s early attempts at gradually improving his program, and if vindication is the wine of fine vintage I’m sure Bill Disbrow savored each trip the the provincial championships. 

Bill Disbrow believed in building, not just a great high school basketball program, but developing the “best basketball program in the world.” Richmond High was to be a ‘non-flashy’ program with an infectious first-class culture that consisted of important core values, face-paced excitement, crazy fans, and sold-out crowds…etceteras.

In short order, Disbrow created (demanded) the strongest culture of discipline possible; which meant making players themselves personally responsible for their own commitment, including commitment to each other, and also the R.H.S. basketball program. If Disbrow was committed, why shouldn’t the players be? Players were expected to learn ALL the positions on the basketball floor. Disbrow wanted each player’s creative spirit to be embraced – no robots – every player needed to be able to continuously exploit their opponent’s weaknesses. Although Disbrow was himself a strict disciplinarian he seldom had to discipline – hereto, his players disciplined themselves – arrived at practice on time (every time), hydrated themselves, ate well, worked out, attended classes, stayed focused. Mediocrity had/has no place in his philosophy.

That is not to say Bill never got upset.  He did.  And when he got upset with players/referees/himself he went well beyond the boundaries of civilized behavior. Bill was a fierce competitor with little patience (well, let’s call it “NO” patience). The true telltale sign of Disbrow’s anger was that vicious blue vein which bulged off his forehead.  A long line of blue (blood) stretching from the top of his forehead down to his eyes.  If Bill was very angry you saw “The Vein” from the stands – straight across the gym floor. Once during Doug Kelsey’s (Point Gray High School super-star) 45 point performance and ass-kicking (win) over the Colts, Bill simply left his bench and angrily went to sit in the stands for the rest of the game. 

Disbrow focused on what worked, wasting no time on anything that didn’t – focused on the right things, not the wrong things. He wanted positive leaders and independent thinkers on and off the court. Disbrow knew a meaningful life for his players today would likely translate to a meaningful life after high school. That he himself had a significant hand in creating excellence in each player must been a gratifying feeling. Disbrow’s personal contribution affected positive changes in players (people) – thus, by extension, our society as a whole.

Even if you lost (on the court or in life) you never actually “failed.” He was proud of you, and he knew you would be proud of yourself because you had absolutely tried your best.

Disbrow developed and applied simple fundamental principles (rules) for playing basketball, coaching his players, and also for himself. Over time, Bill understood and developed an innate sense for what was vital and what was not. Everything Disbrow did was geared at being simple and through his simple rules his players, one-by-one, day-by-day, year-by-year became the very best they could. One of the few absolute rules which Bill insisted players obeyed was that they keep their “BALANCE” at all-times; meaning, early in the year, Bill would stop every player, every time for being out of control. Through his self-taught disciplined rules, Disbrow knew the most effective way to squeeze and extract every ounce of talent from each player.

Through time, the Richmond High basketball program gradually became one of the most successful basketball programs in history. Even so, Disbrow knew it was still crucial to make basketball fun. So, he made running fun, playing hard fun, winning fun, fighting after the ball fun… taking a charges in the paint fun, conditioning training fun, weight room lifting – all FUN. It was hard work yes; but was it fun. Disbrow was passionate about winning and straightforward about making the program fun and anyone who did not feel that way needed to find something else to do.

And, because it was fun, year-after-year, the players could not play basketball enough…and because they trained hard and efficiently, they all became very good. Players then learned by themselves how to push themselves. Then players learned how to push each other – all part in elevating their game. Disbrow’s coaching success skyrocketed and to outsiders it may have appeared that the program’s success came overnight, but it hadn’t. Over years of coaching, critical mass slowly built up and kinetic energy gradually begun rolling the program forward. As players improved, their confidence grew – both in themselves and in the program. A positive reputation quickly developed, and more players wanted to be part of something great, more players transferred…the program got better…players (parents, fans, teachers) flocked to be part of the Richmond teams. The Result: More success and championships than any other program in history. For that we say… Thank you Bill !!!

The Richmond High Experience – The Super Colts – 1973 to Present  (Excerpt from 30 Top Memories)

For over 30 years, over 1000 games, British Columbia Hall-of-Fame basketball coach Bill Disbrow built one of the world’s best high school basketball programs. Few, if any, have surpassed his program’s legendary statistics; they speak for themselves.

5 Provincial Championships 5 Provincial Championship Finals 3 Undefeated Teams (1988, 1991, 1998) 4 Provincial MVP’s 31 Provincial All-Stars 5 CIS Mike Moser Memorial Trophy (Canada’s Most Outstanding Player) 2 Olympians 7 National Team Players 92% win percentage

Making the team was very difficult and a distinct honor. Coach Disbrow had strict policies and high expectations for every player which begun in September. In my year, for example, players were not allowed to tryout before they could bench-press their body weight, had read three hand-picked Disbrow books, and kept their academics in good-standing. After basketball tryouts were complete, Coach Disbrow posted the players names on his PE office (the dungeon) window. Every season, “The Cut” announcement day was tense, with those that didn’t make it often crying openly. No one begrudged Disbrow the difficult task of selecting the Super Colts’ teams.

Home Opener: The first game of the season was always SOLD OUT. Fans would line up for hours for a seat to the game. Often the lineups extended far down the hallways of Richmond High. To be part of the unveiling of the new season’s Richmond High team was important. As game time approached, “Long Time” by BOSTON would begin playing through the speakers. The gymnasium lights were turned off, and only a single brightly lit spotlight shone directly at one corner of the gym. The new Super Colts’ team would soon break through their paper wall-banner. The excitement and noise crescendoed until the captain of the Colts jumped through the paper wall to officially jump-start the season. The gym erupted with noise and every player jumped at least six inches higher in warmup. It was a highlight of my career, and any player waiting in the tunnel behind the paper never forgot that special euphoric feeling.

Every team only ever had one goal. Winning the BC Championship, “The Tourney”, at the PNE Agrodome each March. Disbrow had made the finals several times before and finally won in 1985. We idolized the teams before us. Every practice, the older guys, unashamedly kicked our ass, pushing us to get better until the days we scored a bucket or two became more common. Success!!! I still remember scoring my first basket at and Richmond High Open Gym in grade 9. I was honestly happy for days.

In 2005, our 1988 Richmond High team was named, the “All-Time Greatest Team” by iconic sports writer Howard Tsumura (THE PROVINCE). A tremendous honor, one I’m not handing over, however I’d be remiss if I didn’t say…

When I compare the other great Richmond High championship teams to ours, it’s honestly extremely difficult. Our 1987 & 1988 team idolized the 1984 & 1985 Championship team: Steve Taylor (MVP), Jim Lamond, Ray Doyle, Glen Tait, Raj Lal, Steve Sheardown, Sean Hill, Darrell Mah, Graeme Kiss, Darren Latrace, Mike Saselja, Richard Weisgarber, and Todd Haverstock (manager). Our 1988 Richmond High team defeating them is simply unimaginable.

Comparing ourselves versus the undefeated 1991 Richmond High team (35-0) would also be an arduous task. Dominant players such as Louis Johnson (MVP), Brian Scales, Justin Pudvaiskas, Kenin Matheny, Luke Johnes, Paul Hamaguchi, Stefano Kalaw, Matt Anthony, Andy Latchford, Eric Lum, John McPharland, John Mayan, Todd Klaiman, Dean Sherdown, and Justin Padviaskas, Assistant Coach, Doug Beers.

or, versus

The undefeated 1998 Richmond High team (37-0) with Pasha Bains (MVP), Gilbert Cheung, Phillip Ma, Jesse Tupper, Jason Tarnow, Herb Raai, Atas Maeko, Tyler Semple. What an accomplishment. Defeating undefeated teams is simply difficult – and hard to imagine.

This was Rihmond High Basketball and it comprised of hundreds of competitive, unstoppable, athletes; players. It would be irresponsible for me not to mention a few additional provincial all-stars:

Olympian’s Andrew Mavis (and John Lee Manger, Sydney Olympic Games), Karlo Villanueva, Jason Pamer, Jason Bristow, Bobby Singh, Jay Lee, Mark Craven, Les Brown, Kyle Russell, Zack Russell, Lloyd Scrubb (Father of Phillip – 3x CIS Player of the Year & Thomas Scrubb), Stan Mathieson, Rod Ast, Dave Olafson, Chris Lake, Brian McDonnell, Chris Ray, Al Tait, Phil Enns, Lee Craven, Bernie Glier, Butch Gayton, Bob Skemp, Ian Kishi, Gary Emmerson, Jim Mills, Brian Host, Jeff Manning, Jay Lee, Jason Birring… and more.

Finally, I tip my hat to all the players, coaches, cheerleaders, fans, teams that Richmond High has ever had during the dynasty years.

Richmond High Basketball: Photo Gallery 1973 – Present –