Sunday, February 21, 2016

Ken Murray Leaves River Lions, Grâce Lokole Takes Over

Murray (left) and Lokole (right) at a River Lions game (Photo: Rod Stears)

Ken Murray came out of retirement to become the head coach of the Niagara River Lions, the newest member of the NBL Canada. But after experiencing a rough start to their inaugural season, the River Lions are now relieving him of his duties. Murray will be replaced by assistant coach Grâce Lokole, who will serve as interim head coach. 

Co-owner Richard Petko made the announcement on Saturday, saying, "We are disappointed that the season hasn’t gone the way we had expected but we thank Coach Murray for everything he has done for our organization and we wish him the very best in the future."

Murray led the River Lions to a 5–14 record, as Niagara reached the halfway point in the season. The River Lions currently have the worst record in the league, behind the also floundering Orangeville A's. Before joining the NBL Canada, Murray had a solid track record with Brock University, where he won two national championships. However, he has been unable to bring the same kind of success to St. Catharines.

After the decision was made, Lokole tweeted out to River Lions fans:
Petko expressed his respect for the interim coach, appreciating his work ethic. Lokole hails from Welland in the Niagara Region and spent last season as an assistant basketball coach with Niagara College. As a player, he competed at the University of Guelph and, earlier, Notre Dame College School in his hometown. He also works for Top Prospects Canada, where he helps out with recruitment. But now that he has secured the head coaching position, Lokole wants to get back and help his team as much as he can.

"I was definitely surprised, but I get so caught up in all the work, I just went back to scouting," he told NBLCNET. "We have a tough three-game road trip that the coaching staff has to prepare for. There was really no time to do much but [to] get back to work."

Lokole served as the team's assistant coach before Murray's departure.