Andrew Gaze is beaming after a very productive training session at Condell Park. Julian Khazzouh is sweating profusely as he runs up and down the court with purpose, Jason Cadee is barking orders to the rookies, while Tommy Garlepp sets up bone-crushing picks to the delight of assistant coach Lanard Copeland.
Change has finally arrived in Sydney. In the first week of training with his new club, he has already seen a transformation in work ethic and attitude from his new charges. The newly appointed Kings coach likes what he is seeing. Gaze, along with his fellow Melbourne Tigers buddies Copeland and Dean Vickerman, is gearing up for his latest challenge – transform cellar dwellers Sydney into a lean, mean playoff machine.
There is plenty of optimism for the upcoming season. The new management retained captain Garlepp, Khazzouh, Cadee and sophomore Jeromie Hill from last year. New superstar signings Kevin Lisch, who is on Boomers duty in Rio, and swingman Brad Newley, who is still in Adelaide before he relocates to Sydney, should beef up a stagnant offence. Promising young guard Mirko Djerik has also been signed, but the two American import spots remain vacant.
“Hopefully, we can instil a winning culture. Winning comes from having good processes in place, having good people and most importantly of course, good talent. The thing that we want to emphasise is for players to come in to an environment where they can work hard, and get better and one where they can have fun. They’re out here having fun and having a chance to compete. We put in place the resources to help them get better, we feel that we have a good chance.”
“I come here with fresh eyes. I don’t know what’s happened in the past. Certainly the first week of practice here the work ethic is outstanding, both on and off the floor. The work that these guys are putting in here is fantastic, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. All of that comes down to recruiting. We made a conscious effort to prioritise character and work ethic in the people that we bring to the program. When we’re assessing players in the past, the feedback from the guys is that they’re exactly that. They worked hard, dedicated themselves to the game, to their teammates, to the program, and we’re really happy with what we have.”
Copeland and Vickerman bring vastly different personalities according to Gaze. The two have been recruited as part of building the culture.
“Lanard has been coaching his own program for a while in the Big V. He’s a superstar, he understands what it takes to compete in the highest level. Both on the offensive and defensive end, he brings in a creative mind that can give us fresh ideas. He’s great at getting guys up and he’s a larger than life personality. He’s a fun guy to be around. Dean’s focus will be on the defensive end. He’s done a great job with his Breakers team in the past. We collectively have all got different ideas and we will try to mould them all in the one philosophy where we are consistent and we got the best strategies to compete in a very strong league.
I signed for three years. It’s a cutthroat business and I understand and the club understands that it’s gonna take some time because the last couple of years haven’t been great for the organisation. We are coming from a low base but Jeff Van Gronigen (GM) and Harley Lister (owner), they put a team together, which we believe can win a title.
THE RIGHT SYSTEM
It’s all that. It’s to build a program that has the capacity to succeed now and in the future. Sustained success is what we are trying achieve. It’s about building a program where we can develop talent and attract other players to be a part of the program, to set the highest standards. You put in place all those things, and you let the cards fall where they may. Winning will come, but for me what we are trying to do now is put the systems in place. Once the system is in place, and we have the right people, and constantly reinforcing the values of the club, we believe winning will take care of itself.”
After a lacklustre season, the only way is up for the Sydney Kings. With Andrew Gaze and company, the future is already looking brighter. It’s only now a matter of time.