Fab Flournoy is to become an assistant coach at the Toronto Raptors, leaving Newcastle Eagles after 17 years at the helm.

It was a move that had been widely expected all summer until the New Yorker confirmed his return to Tyneside last month – only to now receive a late offer to formally join Nick Nurse’s staff at the NBA champions where he has spent the past two summers in an unofficial role, including during their historic playoff run in June.

Accepting the job over the weekend, he flew to Canada on Monday and, according to sources close to the Raptors, will likely fill the player development role left vacant by ex-Manchester Giant Phil Handy.

“This,” he acknowledged, “is the right move at the right time.”

Although he has already recruited a roster for Newcastle, the move means his former employers will now have to find a replacement head coach with just three weeks until the new British Basketball League season starts.

Flournoy joined Eagles from Sheffield Sharks in 2001 and replaced then-head coach Tony Garbelotto 12 months later.

Within two years he had led them to their first piece of silverware as the club defeated Nurse’s Brighton Bears 85-60 in the 2005 BBL Trophy final.

Newcastle went on to lift the playoff title in the same season and begin an era of BBL dominance under the American which is unlikely to be repeated, one which brought 24 major trophies and constructed the platform that allowed the club to construct their own arena which opened last year.

“I felt we were only just getting started,” an emotional Flournoy said.

“But this unbelievable opportunity has come out of the blue and when I talked to Paul about the chance to move to the NBA, he told me to grab it with both hands.

“I won’t deny I shed a few tears and I still don’t think it’s sunk in. I have spent the last 18 years living and breathing Newcastle Eagles and it’s been an absolute joy.”

Eagles chair Paul Blake, who has put long-time assistant Ian Macleod in interim charge, told MVP last season that he would not hold Flournoy to his contract if a NBA offer came.

And the naturalised Brit, who was still playing last term at the age of 45, will finally call time on his spell in the UK as he and Nurse are formally reunited, over two decades after they were player and coach together at Birmingham Bullets.

“I always suspected this day would come because there are plenty of people in basketball working all over the world who understand just what an asset Fab can be,” Blake said.

“I’m sure he’s turned down good offers in the past because he felt that he had unfinished business with Newcastle and he has always wanted to achieve more here.

“But he knows the club is in a strong position right now and we have achieved our aim of delivering a home the Eagles can call their own.”

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