Earlier this week Shawn Dennis became the first coach in NBL history to be named Coach of the Year with the combination of a losing record and without qualifying for the Finals.
The award was a testament to his ability to development young talent and overachieve with a roster which “on paper” appeared to be the weakest in the league.
With a formal announcement from Townsville Crocodiles expected within 48 hours, the decision to sign Dennis to what’s expected to be a multi-year deal, will bring stability and credibility to a team which has found itself battling for survival the past two NBL season’s.
Dennis’s impact on the Crocodiles players was evident in the speeches of NBL award winners last week who credited their success to Townsville Crocodiles mentor.
“I’m absolutely grateful to SD (Shawn Dennis) for recruiting me and being able to have faith in me to put me in a position to improve and succeed as a basketball player.” said Clint Stiendl during his Most Improved Player acceptance speech.
“Having that opportunity to play and start just shows the confidence the guys and the coach have in you,” Nick Kay stated in his interview after receiving his Rookie of the Year award.
It wasn’t just those players who won awards who have publicly credited Dennis for their improvement, young guard Corey Maynard mentioned this in a recent article on NBL.com.au
“I think in the last half of this season I’ve really grown and I credit that to SD for the faith he’s shown in me” Maynard said.
With NBL pundits expecting Townsville to win between zero and five games at the preseason mark, it was a huge surprise when the team not only improved on their previous seasons win tally but did it amidst team turmoil which including ticket pricing issues, crowd attendance, lack of sponsorship, mid-season import firings on top of the fact the team was thrown together in a mere three months after being rescued by Larry Kestelman’s NBL takeover.
Throughout all of this Dennis was still able to keep players heads high and deliver wins, including victories in both Melbourne and Perth (Townsville was the only team able to do so this season).
The signing also shows that the concern around the Crocodiles being able to remain in the league long term are unfounded with Dennis agreeing to an expected long term deal.
Once the re-signing has been made public it is also expected the team will come to terms with team captain Mitch Norton, who has been with the Crocodiles since 2011 and seen ridding the waves of Townsville success and failure over the past over recent years.
It’s also expected that the club will make a multi-year offer to Rookie of the Year Nick Kay and is close to coming to terms with Jordair Jett.
Both players clearly blossomed in the second half of the year and have publicly credited their improvement to Coach Dennis.
If Townsville can combine this nucleus with the rumored NBL return of Brad Newley the team could be making its first appearance in the NBL finals in five years… potentially enough of a reason to net Shawn Dennis his second coach of the year award.
Newley has links to Townsville having won the NBL Rookie of the Year award while playing for the club in 2004/05. His sister Mia Murray (nee Newley) is also currently for the Townsville Fire in the WNBL.
Newley is rumored to want to return to the NBL this season after plying his trade in Europe the past decade.
Newley, who has been a part of the Australian Boomers program since 2006, would no doubt be a hot commodity if he does return to the league.
The Adelaide 36ers have been attempting to recruit the South Australian to their roster for a number of years so it will be a hot contest for any NBL to earn the signature of Newley.