COLIN Driscoll was always likely to coach the East Perth Eagles in the Men’s SBL and while that happening sooner than anticipated has caused some growing pains, the experienced international mentor is excited by what the future holds with the club.
Driscoll joined the Eagles this season not only to be an assistant coach to 2014 championship winner Adam Forde but also coach the D-League team for East Perth while taking on the newly created position as development director and also being at the helm of the St Norbert’s College basketball program.
That means that the plate was full for the well-credentialed and respected New Zealand-native coach, but he’s already had to spend significant time coaching the Eagles this season while Forde has been absent.
Now Forde has officially stepped down as East Perth coach as he moves to Sydney to take up an assistant coaching role with the Kings for the 2019/20 NBL season and beyond with Driscoll taking over the reins starting from last week.
His first two games didn’t quite go to plan with losses to the Rockingham Flames and Geraldton Buccaneers, but there were good signs in the second half on Saturday night and in the first half on Sunday against two of the top teams in the league.
Driscoll now hopes the Eagles can build on the good parts from the weekend’s games and he is looking forward to seeing just how much they can continue to improve in the second half of the season.
“When I talk about the excitement of the good parts of the games we played, they all saw a glimpse of where we are heading as well,” Driscoll said.
“They were excited at the end of the game on Saturday night because of the way we finished it and we’ve got one group that we’re putting on that has dynamic energy.
“We’ll try to bolster that and as far as the future with where we are heading, we are going to get better. There are no two ways about that. We may become spoilers for the rest of this season or if we can get a couple of wins quickly we could still even sneak into the playoffs.”
While Driscoll left his Eagles players clear about the things they didn’t stick to the plan with against both the Flames and Buccs on the weekend, what he’ll focus on now this week on the practice floor heading into a clash with the Warwick Senators is how they can make the necessary adjustments.
“We’ve probably already spoken enough about the areas that concern me the most which is about us all being on the same page. Therefore at practice we need to work on what we are trying to achieve,” he said.
“That way we will get on the same page. We had a disruptive week last week with some people being away and I made changes to what Fordey does so that made it difficult to implement those.
“I believe in the same philosophy as him with the immense pressure on the ball if we can get it and to be as quick as we can. We don’t have superstars so we have to try and debase the game and play a scrambling style. That’s what we will be working on getting better at.”
While Driscoll had already spent time in charge of the Eagles throughout the season, he never felt fully comfortable in that role of coaching a group that wasn’t truly his with Forde in charge whether he was physically there or not.
But now that Driscoll has been appointed as coach for the rest of the season and potentially beyond, he feels comfortable to implement the things he wants to see the team doing under his coaching and putting his stamp on their playing style and methods.
“When he has been away during the season, I’ve taken on the role of what I would call a caretaker coach and I wasn’t comfortable with that. But now I am the head coach and I can run a few things that I want to run,” Driscoll said.
“The lads are struggling with that at the moment but we’ll get there. My initial thoughts having bought into this was that I initially joined the club to have the best seat in the house with all care and no responsibility.
“That hasn’t panned out but I’m exceptionally jubilant for Adam that he’s pursuing his career which has meant I’ve had to step up. I’m much more comfortable with this than being a caretaker while he’s still actually the head coach when he’s here. Long-term, it was supposed to be for me to take over but not quite this quickly.”
Driscoll has dedicated his life to basketball which started during his playing career and now for much of the last 30 years has seen him involved whether it be as a coach or running programs at a variety of schools and colleges, or in other basketball programs.
He has settled in Perth over the last four years now having moved from Auckland and after time at the Perth Redbacks which included the 2017 championship, he has joined East Perth in 2019.
Initially that was to be assistant coach to Forde but with an eye to becoming head coach down the track while also being in charge of the D-League along with running the entire development program.
What Driscoll has learned about himself throughout his time in basketball is that he seems to be suited to life as an assistant coach, but that doesn’t mean he’s not willing and able to now take on the head coaching role.
The job came to him earlier than anticipated and it likely means his resources are stretched a little bit thinner than he would like with the different roles he is currently undertaking all at once.
But sometimes you can choose when and how things happen, so he’s going to make the best and most out of the situation.
“I had told Fordey and the club when I came on board that I believe I’m a better assistant coach than a head coach. I’ve had success at the international level as an assistant coach and I was Nik Lackovic’s assistant coach when he won the title so I was really comfortable with that,” he said.
“But as a head coach, the responsibility becomes a bit more yours and while I don’t mind that, I feel like at the moment I’m probably doing a bit too much.
“I’m heavily involved in the St Norbert’s program, I’m involved in the D-League and I’m the development director for all of East Perth in what is a new role.
“Initially I wanted to introduce programs for the youth to get that established and then if the opportunity came up to be a head coach, that would be fine.
“But circumstances have changed and now I’m happy to be in this position and I’ll give it my everything. In terms of my own career, I’m happy being a head coach but it’s not a goal of mine and I would love to be part of a coaching staff at a higher level. But we’ll see what happens.”
If you just look at the East Perth SBL team right now and you can see plenty of exciting, young talent with the likes of Ngang Lual, Jermaine Malie, Aiden Murphy, Chuatwech Reath, Kieran Berry, Ned Seery and Jarrad Anastasio.
That is just a taste of the young talent at the Eagles and Driscoll is excited to continue to develop that to a point where they can be a strong and competitive SBL team without needing to look to bring in talent from the outside down the track.
“The attraction for coming to this club was to work with the young players. If you look at our squad, nine our players have all come through the age groups here and I’m very keen on junior development and it’s not just the lads in our SBL team,” Driscoll said.
“We’ve got a good core of two teams in the under-20s and I’m working with the D-League so that makes it about 30 kids at that level who are doing really well.
“Hopefully in the long run, having to buy Australians to come into the club for us to be competitive won’t be required because we’ll have all the talent we need in our own system.”