PERRY Lakes coach Matt Parsons is experiencing the most challenging time of his SBL coaching career, but he’s confident the Hawks can still get rolling in 2018 and he has no doubt that Jacob Holmen, Lochlan Cummings and Brian Carlwell will be right at the centre of that.
While Parsons’ coaching career certainly hasn’t all been smooth sailing to this point, in more recent times it included a standout 2015 season with Cockburn when little was expected of them before he won a championship with the Cougars in 2016 and then he arrived at Perry Lakes for 2017.
It was a season where it felt like nothing ever went quite right for the Hawks, but they ended up in eighth position and then went within a whisker of eliminating the regular season champion Willetton Tigers so there was a lot to take out of the campaign from that regard.
Then there was every reason to expect big things from 2018 but once against plenty of obstacles have been thrown in the way.
It started with a season-ending injury to import Tyler Monroe and while he has since been replaced with reigning league MVP Jacob Holmen, it’s not always easy fitting in such an important piece of your team mid-season.
The Hawks had still done well to be 6-3 after beating the Lakeside Lightning at home to start Round 8 but that led into the toughest run in terms of the fixture for the season, and it has proven exactly the case.
Over the past five games, Perry Lakes has only played at home once and that was last Friday night to the league-leading Joondalup Wolves while they’ve had four games on the road to the Cockburn Cougars, South West Slammers, Geraldton Buccaneers and Perth Redbacks. And that was just a week after the trip to Kalgoorlie to play the Giants as well.
So the past six games have certainly been challenging and the Hawks have now lost five straight as a result to slip to a 6-8 record to still hold on to eighth position heading into this Friday’s match with the East Perth Eagles at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre.
They still don’t play at home again until July 15 against the Willetton Tigers but for Parsons, he has complete trust in his coaching, his support staff and his playing group to work their way out of this challenging stretch.
“It’s difficult and you go through a lot of doubt when things aren’t going your way, but I back my support staff and the knowledge and work that I do behind the scenes to continue to learn and upskill so that we get our plans right and make sure the message is what it needs to be,” Parsons said.
“I’ve got a great mentor that I work with who I can ask a lot of questions of and get great feedback. It’s just a thing where this is the first time I’ve experienced a lean trot like this, but it’s not the end of the world. I have two amazing kids who need a lot more attention than me dropping my lip over basketball.”
Despite the fact that the Hawks are going through a challenging stretch losing five straight games and with Holmen still trying to find his role while key players Cummings and Carlwell are struggling for varying reasons, Parsons has full faith that things will soon turn.
The last month has been tough not only with results and performances, but also with the fixturing and with a team that includes not only Holmen, Carlwell and Cummings, but Ben Purser, Rob Cassir, Dan Thomas, Travis Hayto and Ryan Smith too, he’ll back in things to turn around.
“We will accept whatever path we create for ourselves and if we miss the playoffs, then so be it we’ll go and do some work. But playoffs is well and truly in our focus from here and if we can take care of business when we need to, that will be reality for us,” he said.
“We have a gritty and smart team who want that challenge, and who thrives on the bigger the game is. We’ve had a tough draw and over the last five weeks we’ve had every road trip under the sun, but we get to settle down into a couple of single-headers and I think we’ll be fine.”
This five-game losing streak has included the Hawks falling short against the top three teams in the competition right now in the Wolves, Buccs and Redbacks.
And while there appears a gap between them and the rest right now, Parsons knows if a team can get a roll in the back end of the season then anything can still happen.
There’s no reason that can’t be his Perry Lakes line-up.
“All three of them are very good basketball clubs and they’ve got four or five very good players and a couple of guys behind them who are impact players or X-factors,” Parsons said.
“They are going to be tough and I’ve got no doubt all three of them will be in and about towards the end of the year, but they are together and working.
“We only have to go back as far as 2015 with a Kalgoorlie team when they clicked that things can come together. Every team below those is probably aspiring to do something similar to that and we are no different.”
Parsons is fully aware that things can dramatically improve in a hurry from 6-8 with 12 games in the season remaining including six of the last 10 being on their home floor at Bendat Basketball Centre.
He only needs to look at the last player added to their squad, Holmen, to know that anything is possible after he was involved in a remarkable turnaround at the Giants in 2015 where they went from being 0-8 to end up reaching the semi finals.
“We talk about that a lot and it was even brought up again after the game so it’s very much at the forefront of our minds, and our process as we go forward. Jacob has lived that and he understands it so the message is there and we still have a lot of belief in that locker room,” he said.
“There are no heads hanging or anything, we are just going through a patch where some of us haven’t been through before. It’s just a bit of growing pains and we have some guys who aren’t in the best of form, but it’s only the end of May. The Grand Final is at the start of September so there is a long way to go.”
While Holmen hasn’t quite reached his MVP form of last season in eight games for the Hawks putting up 15.1 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 38.3 per cent from the field and 17.7 per cent from downtown, his history over the last three years suggests he’ll come good.
What Parsons has seen the problem, though, is that while they have been trying to fit Holmen into the group, that important players like Cummings and Carlwell haven’t quite been at their best too.
They certainly haven’t been alone, but Parsons has no reason to think they won’t come good as a unit.
“The issue is sometimes when you have one or two guys down it can escalate to three or four, and that’s where we currently sit. But we are seeing some really good stuff from Jacob at times and his leadership is growing as he gets more comfortable in the group,” Parsons said.
“That’s what we’ll harness and continue to get him to step forward and provide. He will be fine, he is the league MVP and it’s just a matter of him getting a bit of touch.
“Defensively he’s ticking a lot of boxes for us and it’s the same with Lochy Cummings, we love how hard he’s working too and it’s just his shot that’s not falling. It will only take one good shot or good stretch for those guys to get going.
“We back them to keep shooting and we won’t be changing their games any time soon and we are confident we’ll be coming home with a bit of steam and be a dangerous team.”
Cummings made a hot start to his season with the Hawks having crossed over to play under Parsons in 2018 having played so well for the Cougars in 2017.
He spent the season in the NBL with the Perth Wildcats as well and while his shooting numbers have fallen in recent times and he’s going at 39.6 from the field and 34.1 per cent from three-point range for the season, history suggests it’s going to click soon for him once again.
“We are working on a lot of different areas with Loch and the Wildcats are as well. He’s capable of so much more, but it’s a matter of managing those expectations after he had such a great year last year,” Parsons said.
“Because of that and how he came out of the blocks to start this season, all of a sudden he’s getting the opposition’s best defensive tag. He just got face guarded by Mo Barrow which is the ultimate compliment in one way, but he has to learn with how to deal with that for the first time.
“We back ourselves and our knowledge with the staff that we’ve got to put him schemes and plans to help him grow because the minute he learns to break that tag, it will become a lot better for him. He’ll be fine.”
In a league that appears to be getting increasingly smaller, a man the size and stature of Carlwell understandably might at times struggle to find his role.
But at the same time, he has the potential to be a dominant presence if he gets on a roll and his team can find a way to get the best out of him, and Parsons is confident of that still eventuating.
“I’m not sure what the blueprint is yet but the league certainly hasn’t got bigger, it’s got much smaller and more mobile and BC is having to adjust to that,” he said.
“It’s no different to last year and we managed to do really well towards the back end of the season and I think he did turn the corner in that game against the Redbacks.
“He has had some lean weeks but he hasn’t dropped his head or checked out. He is still here, still training and is still vocal, and is still leading. Like Jacob and Lochy, Brian has a lot of upside there and if we find it, he’ll get going.”
What Parsons wants to first see from his group now is for them to get all the effort and energy things right, make sure they are leaving no stones unturned to be doing all the right things in terms of what they can control.
Provided they do that, then the shots are eventually going to fall and the wins can again eventuate.
“When things aren’t going your way, you really have to strip things back a little bit and keep the focus on making sure we keep our energy and effort levels where they need to be rather than concentrating on results,” Parsons said.
“When it turns, we can change the focus but you have to go through some failures to work out how to succeed.
“We work in our group and there are many stories of teams who struggle throughout a season but then figure it out. We’ll continue to work hard, but we enjoy each other’s company which is important and we know it’s going to turn sooner or later.”