Two ultra-valuable assistants will influence Sunday’s BBL Trophy final. Plus the Play-Off race, funding decisions.

Behind every great head coach lies a willing and able assistant. And when the BBL Trophy goes on the line on Sunday at the Emirates Arena, Dave Forrester of Newcastle Eagles and Mark Jarram of Leicester Riders will be popping up and down on the sidelines backing, respectively, Fab Flournoy and Rob Paternostro.

The pair are arguably the two most respected right-hand men in the British Basketball League but from very different backgrounds.

Forrester (above right) is a practicing solicitor and functioning brains trust who jumps between his two main courts on a daily basis. While Jarram (left) landed on Leicester’s bench, fresh from a stint as an assistant at Division 3 Bard College in New York.

But what keeps them engaged in their supporting acts and how exactly do they dish out assists?

How did you end up getting the number two gig?

Dave Forrester: I fell into it. I knew (Newcastle owner) Paul Blake years ago from university when our team at Northumbria was coached by (ex-Eagles assistant) Billy Spragg. Then when he took over the Eagles, I helped him out a bit. Probably about two years before I ended up on the bench, Paul introduced me to Fab and I started helping him with his recruiting during the summer.

It was about 2010, for whatever reason, Billy left mid-season. I was talking regularly with Fab, giving him some impartial insight. I felt that I could hardly stand on the sidelines telling him where he went wrong when he had no-one to stand beside him doing it. I think Paul kind of engineered it but I said: ‘why don’t I give you a hand?’ It only took two games after they’d given me some Eagles kit that I ended up coaching against London Capital because he got thrown out.

But we get on well. He’s entirely different from me. He concentrates on the here and now. I try and take care of things which look a little further ahead. Ian McCloud is there as well. He does the video (analysis) but he’s a proper basketball coach whereas I’m just part-time.

Mark Jarram: Since the first year I came in, I’ve been a full-time assistant. From there, it’s blossomed and our relationship has grown together. One of the things that has been my main responsibility since my first season was taking care of all the video preparation and doing the scouts on the other teams, just trying to prepare the guys as best we can. Rob used to do that by myself. When I came in, it was easier to rely on someone else so that the tape is ready and the paper scout is done.

He wanted someone in his ear all the time. Maybe challenging him here and there, or throwing suggestions his way. Whether he uses it or not, it’s healthy to have that in games or practice or even when prepping for the opposition.

Sum up your biggest part of the role.

DF: I suppose I do a lot on the recruiting side. That’s the type of thing that’s a challenge for me. We play a certain way. We play defence in a system. We try to be relatively aggressive. Find people with the skillsets to fit that way of play doesn’t just mean getting a good player. You need the right guys – and ones who can deal with a player-coach.

We also want players who can get better in their second year. You see that now with Drew Lasker and Stuart Thomson, even Scott Martin. The more they fit it and understand the way Fab does things, the better we get. It’s like being that scout in football – we try to picture how it will all work. This year we got one right and one wrong. But we fixed it.

MJ: We have the use of (video analysis system) Crossover this year which has been phenomenal so the players have the ability to watch the games straight away. They can see their breakdowns or whatever they want through the filter option. And for myself and Rob, he’ll watch the game back right away. Sometimes, we’ll look at it together.

And then towards the end of the week, we focus in on the next opponent and get into the opposition. Generally we show the guys some player tendencies and what the opposition like to do as a team. That goes into our practices and we prepare from that.

Day to day, week to week, what’s the biggest difference you feel you make?

DF: When you’re a player-coach, an assistant takes on a much greater importance, having someone you trust during a game. There are points in the game when he’s not in the best position to see what’s going on.

I’ve managed to balance (law and basketball) quite well. We have defined roles and I’ll go and scout the next team. We practice 8-10 in the evenings when my kids are in bed so I can get around that. Travelling away is hard though. I have to juggle taking time off.

MJ: Being in the States before I came back here really helped with learning to scout opponents. I did a lot of that there so bringing that over, and using all the software, was big in bringing that back. From me also coaching Loughborough University, it’s great to have that group of younger guys at our disposal, especially when we’re a couple down, so we can still go five on five at practice. Being the link to make that happen is awesome.

Number two’s don’t get the kudos or the limelight so what’s the most rewarding part of all this?

DF: It’s the challenge. You’d get the same off Fab. We’ve done this and won that. So how do you keep going to do it all over again? It’s about the journey. We take a new group each year and try to make that blend, even from game to game. You continuously want to raise the level.

You look at a few years ago when Leicester beat us five times and won three trophies. At that point, we didn’t raise the level so we had to bring it up against and find the next recruits and put them together. If I help do that, it gives Fab the best opportunity to build that group. And I also like pitting myself against some really good basketball minds in this league and helping Newcastle come out on top.

MJ: We just have an approach that is: win the next game. We don’t talk too much about anything else except the game coming up. We don’t get ahead of ourselves. We only look at putting ourselves sin the best position for now. And that’s what I enjoy about working with Rob. It’s very in the moment. Even in the games, despite all the back to backs we’ve had, we just look at tonight. That competitiveness he brings is great.

The Trophy final’s on Sunday – where’s it going to be decided?

DF: It’s going to be won and lost defensively. Both teams like to go up and down and play at a fast tempo. So it’s not as easy as, say, Glasgow where if you stop them shooting, then you’re half-way there. Leicester have different ways of playing and ways of making adjustments. But the team that rebounds the best will have a massive advantage because generally teams don’t shoot that well in finals.

MJ: We have to get stops. Newcastle are an extremely good offensive team. They’re averaging a crazy amount of points. For us, it has to be about slowing down their scoring. That’s the key, especially in the first half. Every time we’ve played them they’ve got out strong. We need to keep them under 60 at least.


John Lavery has stepped down as Cheshire Phoenix’s assistant coach with less than two months of the campaign left, club officials have confirmed.

Lavery, who remains on the club board, has had two separate stints as head coach but has departed John Coffino’s bench in a month when club chairman and main benefactor Andrew Donaldson confirmed he is to vacate his role at the season’s end.

Post-season hunt

With two months of the BBL’s regular season left, who is in and out of the Play-offs?

In already: Newcastle, Worcester, Leicester, Cheshire.

Next on the rank: London and Glasgow need 4 more wins more, at most.

Surrey United will be the first team eliminated if they lose to both Manchester and Sheffield this coming weekend.

MVP has teamed up with the BBL to offer readers 10% off tickets for May’s Play-Off Final at London’s 02 Arena. Click on the image below – and enter the discount code MVP247.


BBL Playoff Final Banner - MVP247


Cash card in play

The incoming British Basketball Federation should get a heads-up on Thursday on how great a challenge it will face when it takes over the strategic running of the sport in 2016 when UK Sport reveals the outcome of its review into how it invests in high performance sport.

Following a public consultation which took place in the wake of heavy criticism over basketball’s exclusion from public funding – and the agency’s unyielding ‘no compromise’ approach that targets medals over long-term development – it is unlikely there will be any radical change.

However it is expected that UK Sport will, under pressure from its governmental bosses, commit to wider investment in team sports as well as diverting some monies to nurturing future talent, an aspect demanded by Scotland and Northern Ireland who have seen little cash head their way.

Outside shots

Cheshire Phoenix targeting full-tilt run-in to playoffs

Josh Wilcher says we’re not alone in not knowing what’s wrong with Plymouth Raiders

Luke Nelson walks 5000 miles to make March Madness (PS. Cal-Irvine advanced to face Louisville in Round 1 this Friday)

Erin McGarrachan bows out with flourish but Donna Finnie’s bid to become first British head coach in NCAA Tourney falls short

BBL Insider appears every Tuesday on MVP

Pics: Riders, Forresters

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