Vince Macaulay has been a pretty ruthless owner in his long tenure at Milton Keynes Lions. “It’s fair to say that every coach we’ve had who hasn’t made the play-offs, I’ve let go,” he declares. “Including myself.”

Not this time. Not with Mike New. The American-born veteran, who guided the Lions to ninth place in his rookie campaign at the helm, will stay in charge next season after retaining the confidence of his paymaster.

“Mike will be back,” confirms Macaulay. “No question. He’s a key individual in our organisation. He’s on a learning curve and I’m putting things around to help him.”

Keeping the faith will be a relief to New, who called time on his long BBL career last summer to make the move onto the bench. It’s has been an enjoyable season, he admits, as well as instructive.

“It was challenging to get the guys to play together, first of all, and then to play together consistently,” he states. “It’s been a learning process for a lot of the younger guys. Several were in their first professional jobs.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t make the play-offs. We lost a lot of close games where we didn’t have the experience to finish it off. Everyone can see we got better as the season went on but we left it too late.”

Unearthing Demarius Bolds will go down as one of New’s best finds, as will the nurturing of Stefan Gill into a consistent top-flight force. The Lions were close to being a nightly threat. Just not quite close enough.

However the coach, already looking ahead to his second year at the helm, sees little need for deliberate tinkering.

“After the season we’ve had, I’d like to keep the nucleus together,” New states.

“There are a few obvious improvements we need to make but not very many. I like the team we have.”

Off the court, stability is the by-word in Milton Keynes. Developing their own venue via a warehouse conversion has won nods of approval around the BBL. Notes have been taken. Blueprints have been sought.

This summer, Macaulay notes, is the first time in five years where the Lions have advance warning of where they will be based come September. That certainty, he confirms, is worth its weight in gold.

“We can now start selling season tickets,” he reveals. “We haven’t done that in years. We can tell sponsors what we can offer. TV works well here.

“We can get back to focusing on what we do best which is basketball.” 

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