HE is the youngest coach in the SBL, he has a relatively young playing group at his disposal and Goldfields Giants head honcho Lou Causer remains confident that his team can end up in playoff action in 2017 in his first season in charge.
The 27-year-old Causer is in his first season as head coach at the Giants having originally moved to Kalgoorlie from Geraldton to play before becoming assistant coach to Michael Haney the past two years.
Once the job became available in 2017 with Haney stepping aside, Causer was only too happy to put his hand up to take over with the aim of building up the Giants for some sustained success with a relatively young group.
While captain Jacob Holmen and fellow import JB Pillard along with Russell Hurst provide some experience for the Giants, it is a largely youthful group with the likes of Jerome Reid, Daniel Forlano, Daniel Goodluck, Miles Tierney, Atem Atem, Brandon Holloway all having significant roles and being far from old.
It has so far only led to a 5-12 record this season following a loss to the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Kambalda last Saturday night. But with nine games remaining there’s every chance that winning six of them could still lead to a return to the playoffs for the Giants.
Overall, Causer is happy with what he sees is building with Goldfields and he hopes it leads to a good run now over the last nine games of the regular season.
“We have had a couple of close losses, we’ve also had a couple of wins so it’s swings and round abouts in the scheme of things. We’d love to have a couple more wins on the board, but I really feel that the positive for us is that we are a much better team now than we were at the start of the season,” Causer said.
“I honestly believe we’ve been getting better every single game. Last week definitely did hurt us. After getting the win over Perry Lakes, we wanted to build on something but credit to Kalamunda.
“Their pressure defence was pretty good and they have a great system that they are starting to adapt to after two years.
“The positives for me are that we continue to head in the right direction and it’s just about continuing that consistency and making sure we keep being competitive to try and win as many games as we can down the stretch.”
The race to the playoffs is going to be a fascinating one with it currently appearing that the top five teams are safe in terms of making it to the post-season.
That leaves room for just three others to make it and it’s fair to suggest that every other team is still in the hunt aside from the bottom placed Mandurah Magic who are still more dangerous than the usual two-win outfit.
“We’ve got nine games left for us in the season and whichever team it is that’s going to find some form and can string those three, four or five wins together in-a-row will play a huge part in who ends up making it,” he said.
“We want it to be us but you look at a team like Kalamunda, yes they are below us and you might like to think you can pencil it in as a winnable game, but you can’t take them lightly and we can’t afford to with where we’re at on the ladder. Hopefully we can bounce back and start putting it together this week against Lakeside and we can string two or three together and go on from there.”
Every game from now on is crucial for the Giants and the other teams battling for one of those spots in the bottom half of the top eight.
Then any clash between two teams in that situation takes on even greater significance. That is the case this Saturday night when the Giants host the Lakeside Lightning at Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium.
It’s the first of two meetings in the run home between them and Causer knows the importance of it.
“It’s a massive game this week. Last week was massive too and we lost the game so that only puts more pressure on us. We are playing for our season right now,” Causer said.
“We haven’t played Lakeside yet either so I’m really interested to see what they bring to the table and I’m sure they are saying the same thing about us.
“Padgett, the big fella inside, has been playing some really good basketball and credit to coach Oatman, he has put some really good young kids on the floor and is pulling it together. I give them a lot of credit and they fight every game so I expect nothing less when they come to our home this week.”
Retaining players for consecutive seasons continues to be a great struggle the Giants face but by focusing on the youth, Causer is hopeful that the club can put together a group now that is in it for the long haul and ready to produce something special together.
“You look at our team and we’ve got plenty of young talent. One of my favourites in particular is Jerome Reid. He is not even 21 yet and is in his third season. Brandon Holloway is a young fella, Billy Hicks is a young fella so there are plenty of young kids there and plenty for us to build around,” he said.
“Even Miles Tierney is back and he’s only 24. In the scheme of things we are a young side and as a first-year coach you do get excited. You want to focus on the now but with such a young core like that you can think of what you can build in the next two or three years.
“It’s all about trying to retain that core bunch for as long as you can. I understand the difficulties with Kalgoorlie being such a transient town and over the last two or three years we’ve had a turnover of 75 or 80 per cent of our team, which has been a struggle.
“But I feel like we are starting to put things in place right now with a good, young bunch of kids who want to be here and give us consecutive years. I am excited for the future of the club and it’s a good thing being a young coach feeling like we are building something.”
The difficulty in retaining players season after season, particularly those coming from interstate or overseas, only further illustrates what an outstanding servant of the Giants their captain Holmen has been.
The versatile and tremendously productive big man can do it all on the basketball court, but even more importantly sets the standard for his teammates, is an outstanding leader and has shown tremendous loyalty to the Giants.
He is in his third season in Kalgoorlie and Causer can’t speak more highly of him.
“I think everyone in the league now knows what he has to offer. He is a quality player and I hold him as one of the best imports in the league. He is a quality person as well and he is a great captain for this club,” Causer said.
“I played with a lot of imports and have also been assistant coach to a few, but the way he comes into every training session is unbelievable. He gets everybody fired up, he talks from start to finish and I really can’t say enough about him.
“He is passionate about the club and I hope he comes back for a fourth year and a fifth year to be honest with you. He has put a lot of the weight of this team on his shoulders and he has really carried us, so we have to make sure we give him a bit more support as well.”
One player who the Giants weren’t necessarily banking on coming into 2017 nor did they know what to expect once he arrived was Luke Pike. The South Australian originally wanted to come on board on the recommendation of Daniel Goodluck and Causer saw no harm in trying it out.
He has continued to get better and more settled the longer the season has gone on. He even delivered a breakout performance with 29 points and six rebounds against the Slammers, and Causer has been delighted with his output.
“He has been a bit of a diamond in the rough, you could say. He came in really late when we were putting together our side. Daniel Goodluck talked to me about a friend over in Adelaide he had played with and the first thing we do is look him up and see what he’s doing in the South Australian league,” he said.
“He wasn’t blowing the league away but he had very solid numbers and we contacted him, and he was great to speak with over the phone. He was all about the team and all about proving himself. He really wanted to challenge himself in a new league and coming to play with Daniel Goodluck was a bonus for him as well.
“I didn’t promise him anything when he came over but credit to him he has worked hard at training and he has a tremendous attitude. You combine a great attitude with a great work ethic and you’ll end up with a solid player like Luke Pike. As the season has progressed he’s gotten better and you will continue to see him consistently scoring around that 10 to 15-point mark for us.”
It’s now make or break time in the season for the Giants starting this Saturday night against the Lightning. Causer is hopeful his team can make a run in his first season in charge, but even if they end up missing out, he knows they are building something for the future.
“With six weeks and nine games to go, we are feeling good. We look at who we were playing at the start and we had a lot of injuries and played what we thought were strong teams,” Causer said.
“So six weeks ago we sat down and looked at it and honestly I wanted us to be a little bit further ahead, but I like what we’ve been doing over the last six weeks.
“We’ve won a couple and lost a couple, especially to Gero at home, and I can’t falter the guys for what we are doing now. We just need to try and get over that hump and start winning a couple of consecutive games.”
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)