IT didn’t sit well with Wayne Creek to see the Goldfields Giants struggling in recent years so he put his hand up to do something about it to take over as coach in 2019 and with four strong additions to a handy core group it’s led to a first finals appearance since 2015.
While it’s hard for Creek to say anything means more to him than his partner and family, if anything was to lay claim to that spot it would be the Goldfields Giants.
The club has been such a big part of his life from when he was a development player on the club’s inaugural right through his 312-game SBL career which still sees him the runaway the blocked shots leader in SBL history.
While life did take him to Perth for a stint since he stopped his playing career and he wasn’t around the Giants as much as he would have liked in the second half of 2018 due to having heart surgery, Creek had that burning desire to get back and help Goldfields become an SBL force again.
Creek put his hand up to return to the coaching hot seat with the Giants and while retaining a core including Daniel Forlano, Brandon Holloway and Jerome Reid, the additions of Patrick Burke, Mayo Malek, David Humphries and Jay Bowie all proved astute signings.
The end result was the Giants winning their last two games in Kalgoorlie the past two weeks to finish the regular season with a 14-12 record and return to finals action for the first time since 2015 in seventh position to set up a quarter-final match up with the Lakeside Lightning.
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For Creek, he just couldn’t imagine not having a close involvement with the Giants especially now that he is back living in Kalgoorlie, his heart is holding up well and when he lives within walking distance of Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium.
Nobody bleeds for the Giants more than Creek so when they needed someone to come and right the ship to take over as coach in 2019, he was more than happy to put his hand up not only because the club needed him, but because he legitimately also thought he was the best man for the job.
It’s not just about results on game night either, Creek is committed to helping developing the young basketballers in Kalgoorlie the best he possibly can and to try to give them a path to develop in ways that might not have been there early in his career.
The fact is that basketball in Kalgoorlie is in his blood and Creek embodies what the Giants are about more than anybody so he can’t be happier to be coaching the club again and now preparing for a playoff series.
“I guess having played as a development player in the inaugural season of the club and playing through to 2007 when I retired so it was basically 15 seasons of basketball that I played and I felt like having a bit of time off,” Creek said.
“I went and coached and I realised that I missed being involved and like a former coach of mine told me, you’re a long-time retired and that’s why you have to enjoy the journey along the way. But I was away from the game for two years as a player and I went to one game, and I hated watching.
“Then I came back as a coach and then through life I ended up moving to Perth and coaching with Ash McCormack at Kalamunda. Then I coached at Stirling which saw me get the bug back. Then when I came back to Kalgoorlie, I got involved with the young guys and I just wanted to be involved in some way.
“I felt like I had some really good people who taught me how to play basketball and there’s never enough good people around who want to pass on information. Time is obviously a big thing but it doesn’t matter how much you may or may not know about basketball, it’s about the time and there’s never enough time you can give.
“I live 400 metres away from the stadium and live around the corner which is only when I drive my car here. I’ve got the time to give at the moment so I want to pass on to some of these young guys as much as I can and give them what I may not have had during my career.
“Obviously 30 years ago we weren’t quite as developed scientifically and didn’t know as much so I just want to give back to this club and to the players. Whether it’s 10, 15 or 20 years down the track, hopefully some of these guys might turn around and say that they appreciated the effort that people like myself, Scott and Jack put in because we might have helped make them who they are.
“In a small town like Kalgoorlie, there’s just not enough people so giving back is the main thing for me. I enjoy being around the club obviously as well as the team, the people and I love the competition. It’s as close as I can get to being back out there playing so I love being involved.”
It’s hard for Creek to say that the Giants are his whole world when he has a partner and children to factor into the equation, but what he’s grateful for is the support he continues to receive to ensure he’s able to dedicate so much time to basketball in Kalgoorlie without it causing ripples on the home front.
“I have my partner and my kids who are obviously my whole world, but outside of that I’ve been involved with this club one way or another for pretty much half of my life whether as a player, coach or helper in the background or someone to do some scouting from afar,” Creek said.
“The club has been a massive part of my life and it’s one of those things where you get around it and you love it, and it might annoy you every now and then, but when you don’t have it you miss it.
“It means a hell of a lot to me to see the club be successful whether it’s winning games, seeing young players doing well coming through or seeing people from this town filling the grandstands. Whatever I can contribute to that, it means just about everything to me outside of my family.
“My partner often has to play second fiddle to the club just because of the time commitment it takes. She comes first obviously but sometimes a poor second to basketball and this club if you know what I mean.
“I’m very lucky that she is a very patient woman and she encourages me to do it, and she comes down to help out too. It’s hard to put into words just what this club means to me.”
While Creek wanted to focus on developing young Kalgoorlie basketballers when he took back over as coach, he knew that the Giants needed some top shelf talent to bank on if they were again to be a force in the SBL.
When he first received word of what Patrick Burke had been capable of in college, he was instantly intrigued and then when the Giants import from last year, Jeylyn Sharpe, recommended him, that was another big tick.
The fact he had been spending more time of late playing ice hockey than basketball wasn’t much of a concern and needn’t have been because Burke has put together one hell of a season for the Giants and he’s often had to do that as an undersized big.
That’s going to continue in the quarter finals against Michael Vigor, Jarrad Prue and the Lightning, but he without question is an MVP fancy and Creek can’t speak more highly of him.
“We were basically told to get on him because he was a good guy, really could play and we did a bit of homework on him. Jeylyn Sharpe who played for us last year was the MVP of his conference at college and Pat was the runner-up,” Creek said.
“Using Jeylyn as a gauge, we thought that stacked up pretty well and I spoke to his coaches at college, and they had a great respect for him. He’s an all-time leader in their school so the signs were there but you don’t know how good someone will be until you see them and how they adjust.
“But we saw Pat in the first game of the season against the Wolves when he’d only been here for four days what he was capable of. As the season has gone on, he’s got better and better and in my mind he is probably the best big guy in the league. He could definitely in line for MVP contention.”
Another new arrival to the Giants and the SBL in 2019 is Mayo Malek and he too as had to battle against bigger and stronger bodies inside all season long, but has stood up tremendously.
He’s proven himself the best shot blocker in the competition, he’s a tremendous rebounder and more than capable scorer when called upon.
Not only has Creek been delighted with what he’s done for the Giants, he sees no reason why couldn’t go on and perform at NBL level as well.
“Mayo already has spent some time with Cairns previously and he has all the ability to earn a contract in the NBL,” Creek said.
“He is a great guy to coach as well. He’s very coachable, easy to work with and if it wasn’t for what Pat’s doing, he’d be doing a lot more and getting a lot more attention. But he also gives us that element that Pat doesn’t give us so if you put them together they are proving a great tandem.”