Drew Sullivan’s radical hoops manifesto, coach exits, ambition Nix’ed

When the shadow board of directors for the soon-to-be omnipotent British Basketball Federation was named recently, there were a few obvious gaps left unfilled.

Firstly, it was all-male. Secondly, it was all-white. But, as was suggested to me from a number of correspondents, there is one vital group unrepresented whose voice is commonly heard among successful governing bodies elsewhere.

“The players are the most experienced people in this,” Great Britain co-captain Kieron Achara proclaims. “You’d want someone who’s played overseas in bigger leagues, who knows the whole professional standpoint. That’s important. Every player wants to become better. Same with referees. I’m sure it will be the same with the BBF.”

The ideal candidate in the eyes of the Glasgow Rocks forward? His fellow international journeyman and national team skipper Drew Sullivan. “Having someone like Drew, who has that insight, would be useful,” Achara adds. “He’s seen what those other leagues do and what lessons you might learn here.”

It is a job spec that I put to the country’s most-capped male player last week. And not only would be open to lending his expertise in ensuring the revamped BBF hits the ground running over the next 18 months, Sullivan already has a manifesto for charge which is as robust as anything we’ve seen thrown up in the General Election campaign over the last 48 hours.

Foremost, ensuring that the next incarnation of the BBL – once the current talks over investment and upgrading are done – is a lot more rigorous in its policing of contracts to avoid the disputes over payments which continue to lurk, often unseen, behind the scenes or even occasionally making their way through legal process to the courts of law.

“There’s very little representation for players. Players get their contracts cut for no good reason,” says Sullivan, whose CV includes stops in Spain and Russia.

“They get offered a contract based on what they did the season before and they get cut because they don’t match that level. Providing they’ve done what they did before, that’s what you’re paying them for. Anything else is a bonus.

“I’ve discussed this with Kieron and Dan Clark, that it’s something that’s needed to push the BBL up, to have a means for the players to stand together. There are too many stories of players not getting paid at the end of the season and they have no-one to go to for help. It’s happened to me here. It’s important we have someone we can access and go: ‘this is going on, can you help sort it?’”

It is an idea which would likely be welcomed by players and agents (as well as the BBL office, which is often dragged into such stand-offs without the power to act as a final arbitrator).

And, the London Lions forward, the clarity offered by the national teams should act as an example for the Federation to replicate.

“There are a few things on the GB team that could be better but it’s apples and oranges because you know what you’re getting into,” Sullivan affirms. “When you sign a contract in the BBL, you expect it get paid. In the national team, everything’s up front. They say we’ve got the money for this, and we don’t have it for that, and you can make a decision. It would be good to have some input on the national team, but having it on the BBL is much more important.”

With the league season ending this weekend, thoughts will turn next week to the Playoff title – but also to long-standing debate over the purpose of the post-season and a format of which few would declare themselves fans.

In particular, says Sullivan, if the league wants to progress into the upper echelon of European competitions, then the basic home and away format for the quarter and semi-finals simply will not cut.

“The Playoff seedings are bullshit,” he states with unabashed frankness. “It doesn’t matter where you finish as long as it’s top eight. People will say they want to avoid Newcastle but you’d still have to play them twice and you’d want those two bites at the cherry over a straight-up final. Until the BBL decides to correct the system and turn it into at least three games, unless you win the league, coming second or eighth means absolutely nothing.”

The BBL, and teams, would argue that it all comes down to venue availability – and control. That, Sullivan claims, is a lame excuse.

”We know that a team can be the higher seed and ask to play first because they play on a Friday and you might play on a Sunday. I don’t know if I’m the only person who says this but it’s comical. No-one knows the playoff dates so how can the venue be a problem? It’s not until the match-ups are set that you go to the venue and say: ‘we want this date.’

And on top of it, it’s not like in the Premier League that the money you receive is predicated on your finishing position. It makes no difference. From a pride standpoint, we want to finish as high as possible. But only first matters.”

On a related standpoint, might the playoffs offer London – this year’s great under-achievers – a route to redemption? At times, in truth, the Lions look like five complete strangers, especially on offense. With Rod Brown out, there is no obvious leader in the backcourt. The capital side could be a wildcard but the odds seem long on them playing host at The 02 next month.

“There were times this season when I’ve felt we’ve turned a corner. And then we’ve fallen back into old habits,” Sullivan admits. “Without sounding arrogant, this is the first time I’ve been in this situation so it’s difficult to work it out. I’ve always played with teams who were pushing for championships throughout the season. Now the only thing we can go for is the Playoffs.

“I just hope we decide over those five games that we’re going for it. We don’t have to be great over all five. Realistically you have to be great for three. Hopefully we can figure that out, and be in the right three games.”

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.


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Double jobbing

With five teams waving goodbye this week for the summer, there will inevitably be a few coaches taking their leave for the final time with Plymouth’s Jay Marriott and Surrey’s Jack Majewski likely to come under review.

sterling davis 200But with Glasgow Rocks admitting any talks over a new contract for Sterling Davis are on hold while the league continues its due diligence on BBall UK’s investment decision, the 36-year-old forward admits he will need to consider whether to offer his services solely as a coach, or whether to continue in his twin role, as at present.

“Of course, I’d speak to the owners and see what their thoughts are too,” Davis said.

“But I’m not getting those indications to tell me to give up playing. As time goes on, it changes the outlook of things in terms of being on the floor. There are nights when I play a lot of minutes. Others, I don’t. I’ve come to grips with that.”

Donaldson Nixed

I’ve admired the commitment Andrew Donaldson has shown to Cheshire Phoenix (and before that, the Jets) both in sponsoring the club and then in bankrolling the team to bring in players – and a coach – that would otherwise be beyond such a small enterprise.

Having increased his personal fortune by selling part of his business empire. Donaldson is walking away after completing his term as Cheshire chairman – with Mike Burton returning as the club figurehead.

“When I agreed to take over the position more than three years ago, I made it quite clear that I would be happy to stay in place for up to three seasons, and that is what I have done,” Donaldson said.

“I am quite sure that the foundations we have laid together over the past few years will ensure that the club goes on from strength to strength.”

Speaking to figures in the club, some of the off-court tumult this season means the summer cannot come soon enough. But there is a confidence they can remain competitive at Cheshire Oaks Arena.

Some, myself included, will look back on the Donaldson era as money squandered. But it was immensely fun to watch.

TV tradeoff

The BBL’s Playoff Final deal with the BBC, as revealed by MVP two months ago, will see the showpiece screened on the Beeb’s website and Red Button channel.

Some of the reaction on social media did not exactly embrace the idea with open arms.

The reality is, increasingly, much of the BBC’s red button output is given over to so-called minority sports without any cost incurred, with the extra exposure allowing organisers to ideally profit from sponsorship or other perks.

Good on the BBL for increasing the reach of what is an ambitious trip to The 02. Now, however, the pressure is on to come up with sponsors – long absent from domestic basketball.

Outside shots
Rahmon Fletcher insistent on rushing back to aid Newcastle Eagles cause

Jordan Clarke to explore Euro options after Plymouth stint

Phil Perre looks back on his career after calling time out

Mark Clark eager to make difference in Basketball England stint

Leicester Riders take arena to next level


BBL Insider appears every Tuesday on MVP

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