Manchester Giants coach Jeff Jones insists the club’s first season back in the British Basketball League can be adjudged a success, even if they miss out on the play-offs.
That seems likely, as the last three weeks of the campaign beckon. Giants’ all-British line-up has been competitive but just not quite enough. Yet there has been none of the teething troubles which have bedevilled many other top-flight entrants in recent years. There is a sense that one or two quality imports would be enough to have Manchester nestling in the upper half of the standings.
And those extra recruits may come next term, Jones admits.
“It’s not a reflection on these guys or their talent level. It’s just we need specific position players who can make us a better team. And if I can’t find them in a British mould, then we’re going to have to look elsewhere.
“Whatever we bring in will have to buy into what we’re doing and the ethos we’ve got. I’ve got guys who have played for me in the past who are talking to me. And people I know. It’s just to see what’s out there. I’ll take stock in three or four weeks time and see where we’re at, see which guys want to stick with us and then we’ll recruit accordingly.”
If results on the court have been inconsistent, then Jones’ outlook off it has been anything but. It has always been about development for the American, who left the neighbouring Magic two years ago to push forward the re-establishment of one of the sport’s biggest names.
In 2014, the team will move, just a few kilometres away, to the brand-new Bellevue Sports Village and into a venue which can seat up to 4000 spectators.
However they have also signed a deal with the owners of four other venues in Manchester to operate basketball facilities which will be branded under the Giants name. While a partnership is in the works with Manchester Metropolitan University to offer scholarships that offer an alternative to teenage prospects.
It has taken a lot of work, and immense amounts of juggling for Jones, putting together the fine details of his vision while trying to mesh a competitive side together on the floor on a weekly basis.
“We always knew it would be difficult,” he concedes. “We also knew that going all-British and mainly Mancunian-based would not be easy. I have to take my hat off to the guys who have stuck with it. We have a core of guys who understand what we’re trying to do. So from that point of view, it’s a success.
“Wins and losses? Probably not as much. Maybe three or four wins on the board that we should have. But other than that, crowds are up. Everything seems busy. There’s a lot of good things going on off the floor, getting us ready for next year. But all in all, in a 12-month span, it’s been an overall success.”
There will, he vows, be more to come. But this is not the old Giants, where investment was squandered and short-term success prioritised. That Manchester team died. This one, Jones promises, will endure.
He said: “We’re trying to make up for the past ten years when there hasn’t been a pro team in Manchester. But we have to be cautious of is not running and sprinting too fast and not doing all the foundation work right.
“We’ll grow gradually, but we’ll grow quickly.”
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