THERE are few more people more synonymous with the Geraldton Buccaneers than Ray Evans now as coach and previously as a player, and he would love nothing more than to bring some more success to the community that supports the club like no other.
Evans had an outstanding playing career with the Buccaneers to end up sitting second on the all-time games played list with 412 with the highlight being the breakthrough championship victory in 2000.
On top of that outstanding playing career, Evans is now back in his second stint as coach of the Buccs returning to the role in 2017 having assisted Aaron Trahair in 2016 following a couple of years out including when Mark Heron guided them to the 2013 grand final.
Evans has been a mainstay of the Buccs organisation now virtually his whole adult life as a player, coach, assistant coach and now coach again so it’s fair to say the club means a lot to him.
He is proud of everything he is achieved and to be such a big part of the Buccs history on and off the court.
“I’m enormously proud of everything I have accomplished with the club and I know my mum is a pretty proud lady. She loves it as well,” Evans said.
“My playing days were awesome and I met some great guys who are lifelong mates along the way, and we had a group of guys when we first came in with myself, Greg Brown, Justin Mallard, Mark Micallef, Justin Patten who were young guys coming through at the same time.
“We enjoyed a lot of success and some ups and downs, but it’s been a great journey with everyone involved. It is like a family and it’s great just to go down to the club and to see my number retired in the stadium makes me immensely proud.”
Coming off the 2013 grand final, the Buccs have remained a strong force the past three years but haven’t quite been able to get to another championship decider including losing the 2016 semi finals to the Cockburn Cougars.
Knowing the team was in championship mode meant that Evans was happy to take over as coach again in 2017 once Trahair made the decision to return closer to Perth.
Now with him in charge, the Buccaneers finished the regular season in third position with a 19-7 record to earn home court advantage in the quarter finals against the Stirling Senators.
Game 1 will be at Warwick Stadium on Saturday night but next weekend the Buccs will host Game 2 on Saturday and then a deciding Game 3 on Sunday if it’s required.
Having experienced all the ups and downs as a player with the Buccs, Evans is enjoying life as a coach again and trying to help the players at the club live out their dreams.
“The club has been a massive part of my life for 25 years or a little bit longer. I trained with the team from the first year they were in the league so I have been part of it for a long time. I stepped away for three years doing my own thing along the way, but now I’m back and it’s a massive part of my life,” he said.
“Being a point guard when I played you get used to being all about the team and knowing who to get the ball to and making sure the team is functioning well, and I guess it’s a similar role to being a coach in a lot of ways.
“The difference as a coach is that you can put things out there and talk about things, but you can’t actually go out there and do it.
“It’s totally up to the players once they’re out there and we give them some guidance, and we have some talented guys, and we just have to try and put them in the right positions at the right times of the game to give us a chance to win.”
Having seen firsthand what the breakthrough championship win of 2000 meant after the grand final heartbreaks of 1996 and 97 on top of the long run as contenders, Evans knows what it would mean to a lot of people.
It’s bigger than just the people involved at the club as well as the Buccs organisation would revel in a first title in 17 years, and second ever in the SBL.
But Evans saw what it meant to the whole community of Geraldton back in 2000 and he has no doubt it would have the same impact again if the Buccs were able to go all the way.
“It would be huge for Geraldton but most importantly for people like Ralphy and Maty Wundenberg as well as Bert our team manager and BJ our physio. They have all been around for a long time and have been part of the ups and downs,” Evans said.
“There have obviously been a lot of ups with winning games and the enjoyment that goes with that, but the downs are that we haven’t won a championship in that long.
“It would be great to win it for them and for the town. We get good crowds and everyone is behind us. It’s not about me personally at all, I’m just happy to do what I can to help the team succeed.”
As for coaching the Buccs again himself, Evans did take some convincing to take on the role after enjoying easing himself back into it last year as an assistant.
But when Buccaneers veterans Mat Wundenberg and Aaron Ralph made it clear they felt he was the man for the job and that they wanted him to help them win that elusive championship, Evans just couldn’t say no.
“It definitely did take some convincing and I didn’t apply for the job. I was quite happy being an assistant with Aaron last year and being an assistant you don’t have to put in anywhere near as much time as you do as the head coach,” he said.
“That was probably my biggest worry about the amount of time you have to put in and just getting back into the whole swing of things. But after talking to a few guys and knowing that we were going to have a decent team that could challenge for the finals and championship obviously helped.
“If we were in a rebuilding phase I definitely don’t think I would have been the man for the job and we would have needed someone else to come in for a two or three-year period to give them the opportunity to develop their own style.
“But once I got back into it I have enjoyed it. You obviously have your ups and downs like most coaches and teams, but we’re in a good position and we are looking forward to the finals.”
While Evans was happy to take on the role again in 2017, whether he will continue in 2018 or not is something that couldn’t be further from his mind.
But he couldn’t be more proud of how many people involved at the Buccaneers help to keep the team running and to remain a powerful force in the SBL.
“I haven’t even thought about next year to be honest. I’m totally focused on helping the guys out this year and I’m not the only one who will help them try to win the championship, we’ve got three coaches, the team and support staff,” Evans said.
“There are so many people involved who all do their little bit and who are focused on wanting to help the team out to get that goal. If we can all do our little bit then that would be great.
“It’s a massive part of all the guys who are in the club. They all want to win and it takes up a huge amount of time in your life so they don’t just want to throw it away. They want to put everything into it to give themselves the best chance as possible.”
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)