The Trail Smoke Eaters parted ways with assistant coach Jessie Leung last week.
The 34-year-old New Westminster native spent two seasons with the Smoke Eaters helping the team to their best season in 10 years, which included a thrilling playoff run to the Interior Division final in his first year behind the bench. This past season, as an assistant to new coach and GM Jeff Tambellini, the Smoke Eaters made an improbable run to Game 7 of the semifinal.
Despite the team’s apparent success, Leung told the Times on Thursday that he and the Smokies could not come to terms on a contract extension.
“I’m disappointed we couldn’t come to an agreement for an extension,” said Leung. “They explained to me that the coaching and managerial staff is changing and consequently with those changes there wasn’t a place for me.
“I enjoyed my time in Trail and loved the people that I worked with and coached with and loved the town and how the community embraced me.”
In a press release the Smoke Eaters thanked Leung, “For all of his hard work and dedication over the past two seasons with the organization and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours.”
Leung played a pivotal role in recruiting young players, many from the Major Midget ranks. Prior to coming to Trail, Leung was at the helm of the Major Midget Valley West Hawks for six seasons, compiling a record of 73-35-10-4, and led the Hawks to a provincial championship in 2015-16.
Leung was originally hired to join the staff of then-head coach Cam Keith, but Keith was fired by the Smokies last April, and replaced with Jeff Tambellini, who remains as the head coach and general manager.
Leung is still not certain what the immediate future holds, but he will weigh his options and is confident a new position will come up.
“I wish you guys the best of luck, the town deserves a championship and I think the work we put in with Cam and Jeff the past two seasons is sending the team on the right path,” said Leung.