TOUGH LOVE NEED IN PLYMOUTH


Image: Ville Vuorinen / www.basketballviews.com

Plymouth Raiders’ rookie coach Gavin Love has quickly shown that he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Having ruthlessly cut point guard Taner Adu and replaced him with Lithuanian Evaldas Zabas, he’s warning that other heads might roll if he doesn’t get the results he wants.

“I won’t be afraid to make changes again to the squad, if I need to and feel it will improve us,” he said. “I want to make the play-offs this season. That’s our aim.”

A tall order for a team learning as they go.

Questions have been raised about the Raiders’ appointment of their former captain as head coach. With only half a season of experience under his belt (as an assistant to the legendary Gary Stronach), the 32-year-old Love and the Plymouth side appear to have struck up a marriage of convenience. Not a marriage made in heaven, not for now anyway.

The Devon ball club have started this campaign struggling away from home, most recently going down 96-85 to the Mersey Tigers at the Echo Arena. A scoreline that flattered the Raiders given that they trailed by 19 after the first, a lead that stretched to 29 by the end of the third – allowing the Tigers to rest a few players.

The Raiders, now 0-4 on the road (in all competitions) are on a steep learning curve, something that Gavin Love is well aware of. “I am a tactician and I communicate well with players. Those that know me understand how I like things done. Obviously as a first year coach I will learn things as I go and improve with every game just like my players.”

It sounds as though he’ll be relying heavily on his experience as a point guard to guide this team, skills that are obviously transferable when you look at the team which former guard and current Leicester Riders head coach, Rob Paternostro has built.

But, the Riders are not the Raiders and Love has a more difficult task at hand. Filling the shoes of Gary Stronach is one thing, but there is an air of mystery hanging over his departure that continues to dominate chat room discussion. Was it his decision to move on? Or was he pushed by a board fast developing a reputation among fans for saving money any way they can (albeit in harsh financial times)?

Amid claims that the entire cheer-leading team was effectively fired for ‘unprofessional’ behaviour, Gordon Cook – the former Chairman of the Raiders supporters’ club – was quoted saying “If they go, I believe it’ll be the last nail in the coffin for the team…I loved the Raiders and wouldn’t want to wish them harm but I really worry for them.”

Love has been placed in a position where his loyalty to the team that retired his jersey has been and will continue to be tested. Defeat to Glasgow at home only added to his woes. With off-court problems and on-court losses, the Raiders could do with a few wins now more than ever to silence those grumbles.

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