What we didn’t learn from Jeff Van Groningen’s reply to the fans

What we didn’t learn from Jeff Van Groningen’s reply to the fans

It was a pleasant surprise to get as comprehensive, quick and (somewhat) honest a response as I did from the Kings management and ownership team, not least as I wasn’t really expecting any response at all. Van Groningen’s decision to address my letter on the Aussie Hoopla podcast has definitely gained my respect.


I will reiterate that I am just a fan – one who’s been around the game as a fan, player, coach and referee for a long time now, but still just a fan, and as such everyone should feel free just to disregard this as the ramblings of someone who has a lot of feelings about the Kings, but not necessarily any qualifications to speak about them. I’m more aware than ever after listening to the podcast that Van Groningen may only have one NBL championship to his name, but it’s still one more than I have. And, finally, I recognise that AEG Ogden have only had the reins of the Kings for just over a year, and given that, they haven’t made a bad start.


However, in the spirit of asking the best questions I can with the information I have, as Van Groningen himself encouraged fans to do in the interview, there are still a few things that don’t add up – as well as, admittedly, a few things that the Kings now have me (at least partly) convinced on. And as twee as it may sound, I do truly hope that the Kings management has learned a lesson about communication from this. I (and other fans, I believe) are mollified somewhat by their elaboration of their plans, but a little heads-up before we get so frustrated with the early stages of said plans that we write angry open letters would be nice. I get that they don’t want to show too much of their hand too early to the other teams, but trust needs to go both ways sometimes.


Firstly, Tommy Garlepp. Van Groningen seemed sincere (but then, what good PR man doesn’t?) when recounting the way that the club approached Tommy in the off-season about a likely reduction to his minutes, and if Tommy isn’t upset, then, short of being sad about the lost chance to watch our favourite play, it is probably true that we fans shouldn’t be too upset on his behalf. But I will say this. No minutes at all, or junk minutes when a game has already gotten away from us, is not “reduced minutes”, especially when compared with the reduction in Brad Newley and Jason Cadee’s minutes in favour of Blanchfield and Leslie (Van Groningen’s comparison, not mine). Is this really what Tommy thought he was agreeing to?


The centre/import argument, I will concede. It was a risk to wait for the NBA squad cuts before deciding on a final import, but a calculated one, at least. I’m less convinced on Kendle, as we will now have to let someone go in order to bring in the third import/centre, which seems bad for team unity and morale in a team that just today was defending reports of agitation among players during training.


RE Amritpal Singh – if he chose the Bollywood music, that’s cool with me (albeit odd) and as a 11th man who we’re trying to develop, he is indeed a good pick. But as a 11th man, why is he getting more time than Tommy Garlepp, who can also play centre and is (at least in theory) higher up in the bench hierarchy? And, as someone on Facebook pointed out to me, we already have a 7ft development player in Darcy Malone – surely two development-level centres is one too many? Singh’s also 26, which many would say is too old for a developing prospect.


Moreover, if Singh was the first Asian player we’d hired since the new rules came into play, I’d be more willing to buy that he was hired primarily for talent, and not marketing – but Bo Liu, who was hired as a development player last year and is now nowhere to be seen (guess his development didn’t go too well?), seems to suggest a pattern… I’m happy to give Van Groningen the benefit of the doubt here (although if we get rid of Singh next season, especially if it’s only to get yet another Asian player of a different ethnicity present in large numbers in the Sydney Asian diaspora, I won’t be so generous), but even he must concede that it does look suspicious.


Similarly, I’d love to see if Pineau, Thoseby etc. stay around for future years. I totally understand – and applaud – the need to build a core of benchies, but we’ve had a revolving door of them for a few years now. Admittedly most of those years were pre-AEG Ogden, but Van Groningen and crew need to understand that, fairly or not for them, Kings fans now have relatively little patience for broken promises.


Finally, what about the firing of the Lion? Come on, Jeff, inquiring minds want to know! But seriously, he meant a lot to many people at the club. Or maybe just to one now-grown-up little girl for whom he is irrevocably tied up with many, many fond memories of ‘90s blimp prizes and the glorious championship days. But I’d bet I’m not the only one.

Olivia Oliver-HopkinsAuthor: Olivia Oliver-Hopkins (4 Posts)

Olivia is a long-suffering Sydney Kings fan as well as playing and refereeing basketball in local competitions for over a decade. In her real life, she's trying to get into academia, having just completed her PhD in film studies, and runs her own high school tutoring business. Her hobbies include trying to get love from unfriendly cats, drinking tea, and being jealous of fans of teams that actually win.