This story was originally published at I Am An Elite 1, a website covering inspirational athletic leaders.
Humility and courage are true signs of a great leader. Chris Kraus definitely possesses these qualities.
Chris could have easily become complacent in his early journey to becoming the 1st Canadian head coach of a men's NCAA team. His dad and high school coach is legendary Canadian Basketball coach George Kraus. George built both the girls and boys basketball programs at Markham District High School to become perennial powers. Winning numerous York Region championships and tournament championships across the GTA and beyond. George was also an NCAA D1 Assistant Coach at U. Vermont in 2005-2006 that helped the team reach the NCAA Tournament.George's alumni are some of Canada's greatest talent, Tammy Sutton Brown, who played her NCAA ball at Rutgers University and then went on to play in the WNBA for the Charlotte Sting and Indiana Fever, as well as being a member of the Canadian National Team. Mike Tuck, who played in the NCAA at Loyola Maryland is entering his 9th year of professional basketball for Sheffield Sharks in England and Eugene Kotorobai, who also played in the NCAA D1for Long Island U., and of course his own son, Chris Kraus who received a scholarship to NCAA DII Stonehill College.
Add to Chris's pedigree his mom Mary Kraus, who was a starting setter for the Canadian Women's National Volleyball Team and currently an LPGA Professional Golf Instructor. So why would Chris at 16 years old, want to leave the comfort of his environment in Markham, Ontario to enter the unfamiliar turf of Lawrence Heights Community Centre in one of Toronto's low income neighborhoods to look for more? What Chris understood was to achieve greater things he would have to embrace the challenge of putting his talent up against the best competition possible. In that gym in "Jungle" was a collection of the countries best basketball players coming together to form what would later become Grassroots Canada AAU. Jermaine Anderson, Eastern Commerce H.S./Fordham U., Denham Brown Bathurst Heights H.S./UCONN, Jamie McNeilly, Mother Teresa C.S.S./U. New Orleans, Kevin Massiah York Memorial H.S./U.W. Milwaukee, Marlon Pompey, Lincoln Alexander H.S./U. Texas A&M, Tristan Martin York Memorial H.S./U. Houston to name a few.
One of the first things I remember about Chris was his big hands and very calm demeanor. He jumped into the drills without hesitation and worked like he had been there many times before. Come time to scrimmage the tone of the runs changed. The ball got passed and moved better than ever before. A pure point guard had entered the building. For the next 2 years Chris would go on to quarterback our Toronto Ball Hawks and later Grassroots Canada AAU Team in some of the biggest games and tournaments we all had ever been in before. In our historic silver medal performance at the World Junior Championships in Doau France in 2002, it was Chris who calmly took care of the ball as we battled a powerhouse U.S.A. Jr. National Team with future NBA Stars Carmelo Anthony, Sheldon Williams and Jawaad Williams.
Chris also helped solidify his place as one of the top high school basketball players in Canada with his selection and performance at the inaugural 2001 All Canada Classic-Rumble in the T-Dot National High School All Star game. In 2002 Chris would finish his career on Canadian soil having led Markham District High School to multiple York Region Championships, a unanimous selection to the 2nd Annual All Canada Classic-Rumble in the T-Dot and accepting a full NCAA scholarship to Stonehill College in North Easton Massachusetts.
Chris continued to bring his great leadership and his formula for success; making everyone around him better, to Stonehill College as a player. In his four years as Stonehill College's premier point guard he led his school to the NCAA D2 final four in 2005/06 and the most wins in school history. Chris's legacy also included All Conference nominations, being selected to the NCAA East Region All Tournament Team and in his 2005/06 senior season leading the North East-10 Conference in assists and steals.
Chris graduated from Stonehill College and went on to play professionally in England for the Sheffield Sharks. He spent 3 summers training with the Canadian National Team program, battling Jermaine Anderson to see who would become Steve Nash'ssuccessor at the point guard position. Unfortunately right before the Canadian Men's National Team trip to China, Chris suffered what would become a career ending sprained MCL injury.
For many, injuries cause them to never return to the game they love but in Chris's case it made the decision to follow in the footsteps of his father George Kraus's great coaching legacy that much easier. Chris saw coaching as an opportunity to pass on all of what he learned from his mentors to the next generation of aspiring basketball players. The following coaches he lists as providing the ingredients to his own coaching success:
"From Jay Triano (summers 2003-2005) I knew his pedigree as a player and a coach. He was one of the best in the world so I studied closely why he had us do the things we did. I wanted to be him in order to achieve my goal of one day becoming head coach of the Canadian National Team." – Chris Kraus
"Dave McLaughlin (2002-2006) was my coach throughout my college years at Stonehill. I played for him and he mentored me as an assistant coach for three years until I took over from him as assistant coach of Stonehill. From Dave what I learned most was the importance of attention to detail." – Chris Kraus
" I spent two years (2008-2010) as an assistant coach at Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba. There I learned from Jerrry Hemmings who was simply a genius and could see the game in so many different ways. Keith Vassell was the Head Coach for Brandon U. and his strength was making guys better and making them hungry to get better." – Chris Kraus
"Wayne Dawkins I played for from (2000-2002). He was my AAU Coach for both the Toronto Ball Hawks and Grassroots Canada. Both my dad and I recognized him for his emphasis on player development. He had the special ability to push us out of comfort zone by challenging us to maximize our skills. Wayne would put us into difficult situations and force us to succeed, then he would find the most competitive games for us play no matter how far we had to drive or fly to get it." – Chris Kraus
"My dad and mom by far were the greatest influence on who I am as a coach. My dad George, was great tactically, combined with a sixth sense of timing and feel for the game. His understanding of his players allowed him to make the right moves at the right time. I definitely learned from him how these two things came together to make the game easier. My mom Mary to this day is so driven and determined. Throughout high school she was up at 5:30am with me rebounding and pushing me to go harder. From her I learned to fuel the passion in my leadership." – Chris Kraus
Chris holds true to his own philosophy that:
"A lot of coaches can recruit players but can you make them better. The only way to win is making players better…day in and day out skill development!" – Chris Kraus
However he also believes his success at the young age of 33 is the result of applying all he learned from his mentors to his repertoire as a coach. Chris's growing list of accomplishments includes:
1) Becoming the 1st Canadian Men's NCAA Head Coach at the age of 30.
2) Taking his Stonehill College team to the NCAA Tournament in his first 3 years as head coach.
3) Becoming the 1st player in NCAA D2 history to win NCAA East Region Championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
4) Going 8-18 with a young group and working with them everyday until 2 years later the same group would go 24-6 and advance to the Division II NCAA Tournament Elite 8.
5) Recruited and developed multiple all region and all conference players.
Coach Chris Kraus has already blazed a significant trail in Canadian Basketball History. With many more years ahead of him, his personal journey as a coach, and his goal to become the Head Coach of the Canadian National Team is one we all should hope he achieves!
"I sometimes still pinch myself, to think it's been 14 years as a player, assistant coach and the head coach at my alma mater Stonehill College." – Chris Kraus, Head Coach Stonehill College