OSHAWA, Ont. – When you know, you just know.
When put in certain situations, some people just know right away. Others need the solution to be right in plain sight before they come to realization. Whether the situation revolves around one’s future career or otherwise, when you know, you know.
That statement holds true for current Ontario Tech Ridgebacks Assistant Coach Deluxshan Pathmanathan, and it’s one that came into focus at an early age. After playing basketball growing up, Pathmanathan found himself make a life-changing decision in the 11th grade, one that has put him on a groundbreaking path ever since.
He wanted to get into coaching.
“I first got into coaching when I was in the 11th grade,” said Pathmanathan. “I was an Assistant Coach for the Senior Girls varsity team and the Junior Boys varsity team.”
“Being an average player, I realized I didn’t have much of a career in playing basketball, so I started focusing my attention on coaching and learning the game at a high level from a young age.”
Some people never make decisions of that magnitude in their lifetime, and most never make them in the 11th grade. Pathmanathan’s decision to get into coaching early has put him on a path to success, one that’s seen him make history on a pair of occasions thus far in his career.
Pathmanathan migrated to Canada when he was just a year old, making the move with his family from Sri Lanka. Since then, he hadn’t been back to his Motherland. With his feet firmly planted in Canada, and working towards his dreams in coaching,
One day, that all changed.
He got a call from the Sri Lankan Basketball Federation (SLBF). Pathmanathan answered, and was given the opportunity of a lifetime, one that also gave him the chance to return to Sri Lanka.
“It was a really cool experience, getting the call from the SLBF, asking me if I would be interested in coaching their U18 National team in the Youth Olympics in Argentina,” continued Pathmanathan. “The talent level in Sri Lanka definitely exceeded my expectations.”
“The SLBF is definitely doing the right things with growing basketball in the country.”
Once they were at the event, Pathmanathan and the Sri Lankan U18 Women’s National Team continued to make history. Sri Lanka found themselves in Pool B with the likes of Egypt, Ukraine, Venezuela, and the United States.
In their opener against Egypt, Pathmanathan and Sri Lanka wasted little time before making history.
“I was very fortunate to have been part Sri Lankan basketball history, as I had coached the first victory in basketball for Sri Lanka at the Youth Olympic level,” said Pathmanathan.
The Sri Lankan U18 National Team finished 17th in the event by way of their win over Egypt.
In addition to making history at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Pathmanathan made sure to have an impact back in Sri Lanka. When he returned to his homeland prior to the event, Pathmanathan made sure to give back to both the coaches and youth to help further grow the game of basketball.
“Aside from coaching the National Team, I was able to run a coaching clinic for coaches in Sri Lanka,” explained Pathmanathan. “I was also able to go back to my mother’s hometown, Jaffna, and run basketball clinics for the youth.”
“This opportunity was very special to me.”
After migrating to Canada when he was just a year old, Pathmanathan hadn’t been back to Sri Lanka since. One phone call from the Sri Lankan Basketball Federations changed that, and he was able to return to his homeland. Leaving a lasting impact behind, Pathmanathan helped to inspire the next generation of basketball players and coaches in Sri Lanka with his clinics.
Fast forward to the 2019-20 basketball season, and Pathmanathan is once again part of history. Pathmanathan is currently an Assistant Coach with the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks in the OUA in their first season competing at the U Sports level on the hardwood.
It was a quick transition for Pathmanathan, as he served as an Assistant Coach with the Durham Lords previously, and the two programs share the same campus. It was a short move from one gymnasium to the next, but familiar surroundings all the same.
Pathmanathan has been with the program from the beginning. With a hand in recruiting the first roster to Ontario Tech and helping to form the program, it’s been a rewarding journey to this point.
“Being part of the inaugural coaching staff for the Ridgebacks has been an exciting journey thus far,” said Pathmanathan.
Working under Head Coach Greg Francis has been just as rewarding for Pathmanathan, and he was quick to offer his praise to Francis for the work he’s put in and for the lessons he’s been able to pick up.
“Being able to go into work every day and work alongside one of the best basketball minds in the country, in coach Greg Francis, is truly an experience of its own,” continued Pathmanathan. “As a coach and person, I have developed a lot by watching and learning from him.”
As a first-year program, Pathmanathan and company understand that the season will have its own unique challenges. The coaching staff has built the team from the ground up, and their focus is on the team first and the results second.
“Being a first-year program, our number one goal is to set a culture and tone for how the program is to go forward,” said Pathmanathan. “With a roster of mostly first-year student-athletes, some may see that as challenging, but the first-years we have at our school are second to none.”
“I strongly believe we have the best rookies in the province, if not the country, and that definitely makes the challenge of setting a culture easier for us.”
For a new program, building a strong team culture will do wonders as years move along. The results will come with time, but they’re also a result of the culture and atmosphere that are built surrounding the program. Francis, Pathmanathan, and the rest of the staff at Ontario Tech have done things the right way to start, and while the results haven’t been there on the scoreboard, it’s only a matter of time before the wins start coming.
“Our goal right now is to develop our young talent and build a foundation at Ontario Tech University,” added Pathmanathan. “I am very excited projecting and looking into the future when our rookies reach their upperclassman years.”
“As much as the win-loss column says right now, we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
Over his career, Pathmanathan has coached at various levels in the basketball world. His coaching career has included several roles within the Ontario Basketball Association (OBA), the National level with Sri Lanka, the OCAA with the Durham Lords, and now the Ridgebacks in the OUA. Along his journey, Pathmanathan hasn’t forgotten the mentors he’s had along the way.
Marko Zecevic. Sean Loucks. Tyrone Bobb. Desmond Rowley. Jason Dawkins. Greg Francis. The list goes on and on.
“I believe I have had a lot of great mentors throughout my coaching career who have helped mold me into the coach I am today,” continued Pathmanathan.
All his mentors have helped him grow and develop as a coach and have played integral parts to get him where he is today. Having taken tidbits of information and insights with him as his career has continued to unfold, Pathmanathan has used his previous experiences to help shape his current coaching style.
After being a part of history twice already, Pathmanathan still has his sights set on his own goals in the coaching world. Whether it’s in Canada or south of the border, he’s focused on achieving his own end goal, all while keeping his current position at the forefront.
“I aspire to be a Head Coach at the U Sports / NCAA level one day down the road,” said Pathmanathan. “Right now, I want to develop myself in my current role and learn as much as I can and gain as many coaching experiences as I can to develop and become the best coach I can be.”
Pathmanathan has one of the top basketball minds to learn from on a regular basis. Working with a new program alongside Coach Francis each day at Ontario Tech University is an opportunity few coaches get to experience in their lifetime. Pathmanathan’s experience in helping to build a program from its foundation will bode well for his future in the industry, without question.
An early decision when he was in the 11th grade helped set Pathmanathan up for a successful coaching career. His decision to get involved with the varsity teams in high school exposed him to the ins and outs of coaching before many of his peers likely knew what they wanted to do with their lives.
For the next generation of prospective coaches, Pathmanathan gave his own advice.
“Be creative and think outside of the box,” concluded Pathmanathan. “Seek and learn as much as you can, and don’t ever do anything because that’s just the way it’s always been done.”
The next generation of basketball coaches could very well include Pathmanathan’s newborn son, Kobe. Partly named after one of Pathmanathan’s favourite athletes known for his work ethic and resiliency, Kobe could be destined for a lengthy playing career on the hardwood. If he decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter the ranks of the coaching, he will have one of the top basketball minds to learn from at his fingertips.
Pathmanathan is living proof of his own advice. While others were busy playing the game of basketball, he could have done the same. However, the decision to switch from playing to coaching was the first domino to fall in what has been a successful coaching career thus far.
It took some self-reflection to realize that playing the game wouldn’t get him as far as coaching world. Pathmanathan put himself out there to gain valuable experience. Working with both the Senior Girls and Junior Boys varsity teams in high school gave him a taste of coaching, and his career has revealed several intriguing chapters since then.
Now, Pathmanathan’s resume includes several high-profile stops, all of which have led him to his current role with the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. From an OBA Gold Medal to serving as the Head Coach for the Sri Lankan U18 National team, he’s been a part of some historic moments as a coach, and there will be more to come down the road.
All his success can be traced back to a single decision that he made back in the 11th grade, a decision that most people struggle to make as adults, let alone as a teenager.
Others will tell you what to do with your life, but the decision is ultimately yours to make.
After all, when you know, you know.
– T. Bennett