Gerard Dolan is helping foster a bright future for young athletes in Prince Rupert.

Heart of our city: Gerard Dolan passing the ball to the next generation

Gerard Dolan was packed and ready to go. The 10-year-old had bought his passport and the Dolans were prepared for a new life in Iran.

Gerard Dolan was packed and ready to go.

The 10-year-old Newfoundland boy had bought his passport, as did the rest of his family, and the Dolans were prepared for a new life in Iran – one in a Canadian commune.

“Those were the days of [revolution leader] Ayatollah Khomeini,” said Gerard last week.

Born in Bay d’Espoir, NL and residing there until age 10, Gerard had a couple weeks before his plane would take him to the Middle East where his dad would be the country’s newest tradesman in the late 1970s.

But a fateful message from his dad’s contact would change the path of Gerard and his family a little more west.

“The HR person that worked for dad on his behalf to find a job, said ‘Hey, if you want to stay in the country, you can go to the opposite side [of Canada]’,” said Gerard.

“So [I’m a] bonafide coast-to-coast Canadian. I moved here, went straight into Annunciation school and have essentially been here ever since.”

Prince Rupert is now home to Gerard and his wife, Trudy, and their three boys Zachary, Isaac and Malcolm.

But it was another road, one through the Lower Mainland and even on the other side of the equator, that brought Gerard there and back again to Prince Rupert.

“Basketball was a big part of my high school gig [at Booth Memorial and then Prince Rupert Secondary (PRSS)]. That was probably one of my motivating reasons to go to a post-secondary institution, coming from a strong Rainmaker program. So I went to Nanaimo for a few years and worked towards getting a forest resource technology diploma, but didn’t finish it,” he said.

The industry, as it turned out, was getting smaller and Gerard didn’t see a prosperous future in it. So, the Rupertite transferred from Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University) to Kamloops at Cariboo College (now Thompson Rivers University) to play his remaining years of college eligibility.

“Then, I came back here and worked at the pulp mill for three years but in the third year decided it wasn’t for me. But I saved my money and I realized I was still in shape and so I started working on my game a bit and went to Australia,” said Gerard.

There, the North Coast resident found himself drawn to the coastal waters near Sydney where he played on the wing for the Sydney Comets, a farm team for the National Basketball League’s Sydney Kings.

“That was only a three or four month thing and then after that I just travelled,” he said.

“There’s not as many seasons, there. Just one.”

Gerard went north, but never into the interior.

“I had a lot of travelling friends there, and I’d say ‘where’d you go?’ and they’d say ‘Ayers Rock’ and I’d say ‘so should I go there go?’ and they’d say ‘meh a lot of bugs; big rock, a desert.’ And we’re from B.C. and I’d say ‘yeah I don’t know about that’,” he laughed.

“[The tour company’s] aggressive. They come out with these big mosquito nets.”

Gerard made his way to the Whitsunday Islands, a collection of coastal islands 900 kilometres north of Brisbane off Queensland.

After 12 months in Aussie-land, Gerard returned to Prince Rupert and began his residential contracting work that he maintains today.

“That was a big change [coming back]. All of a sudden you’re done doing your thing and you’ve got to start thinking about a career,” he said.

After meeting Trudy in Kamloops at nationals, the pair had three sons and Gerard has been actively involved in minor basketball (PRMBA), amateur swimming (PRASC) and Annunciation school council not just as an extension of his kids’ activities, but as an alumnus to both the PRMBA and PRASC.

“I should start by saying the most important supporter I have is my wife. When I’m gone on meetings, and they pile up, she’s there with the three boys,” he said.

As chairman of minor basketball and vice-president of the swim club, and formerly involved with the pastoral council and Knights of Columbus charity group, Gerard doesn’t have many free evenings and when he does, Trudy is there to help out.

“She’s really understanding,” he said.

With basketball, Gerard sees himself as just one step on the ladder of many past and great minor basketball leaders.

“The popularity of the minor basketball league – that goes way back before me. I could name off all the great chairs before me who have brought up and shared this league. All of a sudden a kid on the North Coast gets a ball in his hands in Grade 3. That’s like Juneau, Alaska. They have that program [for young kids] there too,” said Gerard, who also thanked all the sponsors for helping him run the league.

“[With the swim club] we have a full-time, paid coach, again, great support from the community and the parents – our executive – they’re passionate. They’re always saying ‘what can I bring to the plate?’ Whether it’s ads or computer skills or P.R. or canvassing, trying to drum up some money – these executives are wicked … if these organizations run on anything, it’s the good that these volunteer committees bring,” he said.

Zach, Isaac and Malcolm regularly participate in swimming, basketball and school activities, and Gerard’s involvement on each organization’s committee helps ensure the Rupertite that the direction of each organization is heading towards a healthy and prosperous future, not only for his kids, but for the city’s youth as a whole.

To Gerard, it’s not surprising basketball has arguably overtaken hockey as the go-to sport here on the North Coast.

“It’s a cheap sport,” he explained.

“All you need is a hoop, a pair of runners and a ball. So that’s part of the appeal – much like soccer, you don’t need much. [When I was younger], there was hoops outside and we had the athletic facility so there was always a place to shoot … and then you pair that with the reputation the Rainmaker basketball program has. It’s always had strong coaching and so you see a lot of players that leave the North Coast with good fundamentals and parents all know that going in,” said Gerard.

“They’d say, ‘hey, this is a good gig’.”

Gerard’s pride and joy in the autumn is the PRMBA, which has four divisions and four teams within each division.

“We have 200 kids running through the league every year and volunteer coaches, and we also pay our refs and scorekeepers and timekeepers so the kids themselves can get some financial reward for putting time in the league, so it’s a very positive thing,” he said.