The hallways at Britannia secondary were buzzing last week before tipoff in the 42nd annual invitational basketball tournament, one of the first in B.C. to host senior boys and girls at the same time, same place.
The excitement was about that place, specifically the Bruins basketball court and its flanking bleachers, and about one person, a coach who since 1980 has made that gym a second home not only for himself but also a welcoming and safe space for hundreds of teenage athletes.
On Jan. 14 before the senior girls won their own tournament for a ninth time in 11 years, the school paid special tribute to Bruins coach Mike Evans. They named the place after him.
Read more and see the Photo Gallery: Bruins win Britannia invitational tournament
More than 120 former student-athletes and numerous retired teachers dressed in red and walked out on the floor. The stands were already packed. As Evans led the Bruins in a pre-game pep talk under blue banners for city and regional championships and their cherished 2012 B.C. AA title, the players made sure to hold his attention and keep his back to the larger crowd. Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” blared on the PA. The reveal was a surprise.
Evans, whose first day as a counsellor at Britannia was in 1980, turned around to see a few words newly printed on the wall: Mike Evans Gymnasium.
“I wonder if it’s legal, but anyway…” Evans said a few days later, characteristically humble and funny. “It was overwhelming and as it turns out, it was a well-kept secret.”
Mitra Tshan, the bantam and junior girls coach as well as a community educator at Britannia, organized the ceremony with Trevor Stokes, who coaches with Evans and teachers in the Streetfront alternative school, and Bob Fitzpatrick, an I.B. teacher and student council sponsor. The name reveal was public knowledge and widely shared on social media, but Evans said he was none the wiser.