It has been over two months since the Sydney Kings played their last game of the NBL season, but plenty of rumours are already swirling around the glamour ball club during the offseason. We gave Sydney Kings Head Coach Andrew Gaze a quick courtesy call to find out the latest news.
We have already seen the departure of Assistant Coach Dean Vickerman and promising forward Craig Moller to Melbourne United, and off-contract big men Aleks Maric, who is currently plying his trade in Spain, and Julian Khazzouh.
In his first year as a head coach in the NBL, Andrew Gaze has had more ups and downs than a roller coaster ride in Dreamworld. Despite missing the playoffs, Gaze is very optimistic about next season.
Marco Selorio (MS): G’day Coach. We haven’t seen you in a while.
Andrew Gaze (AG): Mate, I’ve been away on holidays with my family. I just retuned to Melbourne. I go back on full time duties in July. I will be back and forth in Sydney though.
MS: Welcome back. How was your experience as a first-time coach in the NBL? What did you learn thus far?
AG: We are developing a culture of success, it is a working process and finding substance for the club. It was disappointing that we did not achieve our goals, but we have made huge strides forward from where the club had been, but we are still nowhere near where we need to get to.
MS: Do you have any news in terms of new signings?
AG: As you know Dean (Vickerman) has moved on to Melbourne United. There was an opportunity there for him, and he left with our blessing and support. It is disappointing to see him go, he’s a great loss to the Kings but Melbourne will have a great coach with plenty of experience under his belt. He’s an accomplished coach and great at developing culture.
MS: Coach Dean is definitely a big loss to your leadership group.
AG: We have added Luke Kendall in his place, he served his apprenticeship last year. He has been promoted and we believe that Luke will provide plenty of experience to our coaching staff. We don’t have a great deal of experience, but we have a great deal of knowledge between us. We feel like we can put a program that can ultimately extract the best out of our players.
MS: What will you be focusing on next season? What needs to be improved moving forward?
AG: We are always trying to improve but we have seen the stats, and the numbers don’t lie. We need plenty of help in the rebounding department and shooting. At the start of the season we were playing very well, but towards the tail end, our field goal percentages and three point shooting dropped significantly. We are putting a premium on shooting.
Our style of play is gonna be dependent on our roster.
MS: What will be the makeup of the squad in the upcoming season?
AG: We have some players under contract and are signed to the club for 1-2 seasons. Jason Cadee, Kevin Lisch, Brad Newley and Tommy Garlepp are back with us next season. We are building our nucleus around them. We have just added Todd Blanchfield who is very versatile and he will be playing multiple positions for us. We will try to play him as a guard all the time, he has good flexibility in that swingman spot. Offensively, he’s a great athlete, we just gotta find a way to exploit his talents.
We have a couple of spots for development players. Some are bubbling along from the SEABL, Big V and college ranks that we are looking at.
MS: You got five guys so far, how about your big men and imports? Have you found anyone that could fill the breach in the middle?
AG: Look, we are looking for a 5 (centre) and a 3 or 4 (forward). We are looking for a stretch 4, a shooter who can help on the boards and defensive end. We also need a 5, who can provide an inside presence, score, be a passer and provide rim protection.
We have a depth chart and we are analysing the talent that’s out there. We are monitoring overseas players who are playing now in various leagues and who have just finished college. The challenge is firstly, to identify the talent, and secondly the affordability factor, and these two things are not always mutually compatible.
MS: What happened to Craig Moller?
AG: One of the saddest days I’ve had in a long time is when we were unable to re-sign Craig Moller. A player last year who had nothing, had no other opportunities and we saw a lot in him and he made a very solid contribution. Unfortunately, due to the economics of the sport says that he had to move on. He’s gonna be a massive impact player in the competition, could be an elite player and potential Olympian with his size and skill set. I see plenty of upside in him. It was one of those real disappointing days where we were unable to provide an offer that was as attractive as what Melbourne United put together. That’s the reality of sport.
We could be making an announcement in the coming weeks so keep an eye out.
MS: That’s interesting. So what’s coming up for you now?
AG: We have an invitational only Sydney Kings camp in early July. We are having informal practices but we start our training from July 30. I am coaching the Melbourne Tigers in the Big V right now, so that’s keeping me busy.
MS: Thanks for the info, Coach. See you in July.
AG: Thanks mate, talk soon.