With the start of the IBL mere hours away for the Edmonton Energy, The Can Ball Report caught up with Head Coach Paul Sir to discuss the previous season, the players and the coming season. Check out the interview right here ...
For those of you who know a thing or two about basketball in Canada, then you know about the Edmonton Energy. For those of you who don't, where have you been? The Energy were a team that joined the International Basketball League last season being one of the two teams in Canada (the BC Titans out of Vancouver being the other). Last year, with a team made largely of Canadians the Energy went on to have the best regular season record in the league. But the great regular season was tempered by the first round exit in the Play Offs. This year, with several key personnel back from last season, the Energy are looking towards a possible championship run. With the first game coming up Friday, The Can Ball Report got a chance to speak to head coach/general manager Paul Sir about the coming season and his thoughts on last season's early exit ...
The Can Ball Report: Thanks for taking the time Coach Sir to speak to us today about the coming year. How are things going for the coming season?
Coach Paul Sir: Really well. We’re carrying a roster of eleven players and nine of the guys are in town now. One of our guys will be heading over to China to try out for the Chinese Basketball League so he’ll miss the first couple of week, but that’s OK. The other ten we have we feel really good about. And then we’ll add one or two players towards the end of the season.
I’m very encouraged by what we have (this season). We have our five IBL All Stars back to anchor the team plus we’ve added some nice new pieces. I feel we will put our strongest team, being this is our third year of pro ball in Edmonton, this should be our strongest team. And honestly, if we play close to our potential we will be a lot better than last year.
CBR: Well, that’s saying a lot considering the record of last year’s team as the “new” team in the league (a league best 17-4). I’m really looking forward to seeing the season unfold now. Now I’m looking at the roster, was there any doubt that you would be able to return as many guys as you did from last year?
PS: Well, we are very fortunate that all of the players that were on the team last year wanted to come back. We felt that there were a couple of positions we needed to upgrade, and we have, but everyone was very, very enthusiastic about coming back. They had a good experience here and we were fortunate enough to get not only good basketball players but good people.
I try to pay close attention in terms of assembling a team to what I feel is a balance of ability and character. I don’t think you build chemistry with just talent. You need character; guys who are willing to accept roles and trust in each other and that takes a particular type of individual. When I go about analyzing who to fit into various roster spots, that’s a very big consideration for me and we’ve been fortunate to have some really great people.
I knew who I wanted back and the types of players we wanted on the team and then went out. We had lots of people approach us about playing (with us this season). Through my contacts, and through good fortune, we found the pieces. There were a few particular players I wanted and we went at them really hard and we were fortunate enough that they joined the team. Understanding the IBL and the game that it is and the fact that this year we’re playing in three game sets, you need to have ten or eleven guys who can contribute. On that kind of a weekend, all ten will get lots of minutes. It would just be too physically demanding to have guys playing 40 minutes a night for three nights in a row. We’re lucky that we have the kind of individuals and character we have.
CBR: After the success of the previous season I’m sure that people we contacting the team. Did you find the contacting to be at a higher volume than previous years?
PS: In terms of number of people, it was the highest it’s ever been. I’m sure that it’s because it’s our third year in existence therefore news is starting to circulate. We’ve developed a good reputation in the basketball community as a franchise that honors its bills, especially after the first year's situation. Last year we made sure we paid our bills on time, took really good care of our kids and they network with people. We had a few IBL All Stars from other teams who wanted to come and play for us. That’s always the best tribute when your opponents want to come and play for you. We had a lot of opportunities that we passed on.
CBR: Now you mentioned that you would be playing in three game sets this year. Now was that designed for the Energy or was that a league wide decision?
PS: The economic model of the league is to make sure that the cost for teams to go on the road is efficient. What they found was that for a team from, say, Tacoma, Wash to come to Edmonton for two nights, it doesn’t cost them much more to come for three nights and get three games on the schedule looked after. They just felt it was a more efficient and effective way to get more games in and justify the long trip. Because of our geography, all our road trips are seven games in ten days swing. We start on May 14 and by June 22, we’ll have played about 18 games so that’s a lot of basketball.
CBR: Wow. That’s a whole lot of basketball indeed. With that in mind did you prepare differently for this season?
PS: An emphasis for me was that the guys coming in this year were active basketball players with active careers because that means that they’re gonna come to camp in shape and not have to start from scratch. We have some guys that were injured during their overseas seasons but they have been going through rehab. We also started camp a little earlier, instead of ten days for training camp we had three weeks. We had them come in and get familiar with each other and then other guys have filtered in over that time so I think we’ve addressed the conditioning issues. Other than that it’s just the experience of being in the league, understanding the team and what we need to be successful, we’re looking to learn from our past experiences for this year.
CBR: I wanted to ask about the Energy’s schedule. You guys start your season later than most team in the IBL. Was the delayed start of season due to travel issues?
PS: It really was. Plus a lot of the teams that play in the IBL have kids that are from their regions. We have three Edmonton based players, two from Saskatchewan and five Americans. We had to get guys back from their European gigs and we still have two guys coming in. It’s a gradual process but the good thing is that the guys we have now are developing chemistry and the guys coming in are team players and mature individuals and I’m confident that they will fit in quickly.
CBR: There were high hopes at the end of last season but it all ended abruptly in the Play Offs. Is there added incentive this year for you and the players to make up for that disappointing ending?
PS: Absolutely! And I would equate it to the experiences that are easy to refer to in the NBA: often times teams that win championships lose on their way in the play offs the year before to a team they shouldn’t lose to and they have to learn from it. I, As a coach, definitely spent a lot of time thinking, talking to my assistants, talking with other people, pondering what we didn’t do last year to prepare ourselves (for the Play Offs). I know the players feel we fell short. We feel the team that beat us, if we play them 20 times we’d beat them 19. They had to have the perfect game to beat us and to their credit, they did. They outplayed us that night and we realized that we did not have a tough enough schedule leading into the play offs. So we headed into the Play Offs not prepared for the type of toughness we needed to display. We had pretty much run over everybody going into (the Plays Offs last year). This year our lead in series going in will be against the defending IBL champions LA Lightening in a three game series. So we know that we’re going to go into the post season battle tested. We’ve made our adjustments and everyone has a real strong sense of purpose that they want to contend for the championship.
CBR: That’s good hear. Now Coach Sir tell me which player has surprised from last season to now so far?
PS: Rashaun Broadus who was with us two years ago when we were the Chill who wasn’t able to play with us last year. Rashaun coming out of BYU, he was just an athletic specimen: lightening quick, able to create his shot but we really needed to have the ball in his hands a lot. Now Rashaun has matured into such a well rounded player: he can shot it really well, he can get to the rim really well but he’s a superb passer now and is willing to give it up.
CBR: Ok, who would you consider the glue guy on the Energy?
PS: Will Funn because he has the ability to make every better all the time. He’s our version of Steve Nash, I think Will has the same affect on our team. When guys are open, he’ll get them the ball and where they need to get it. Will is the glue guy for us this year.
CBR: Just thinking about the team here, are there any changes to this year’s team that may not be so obvious to people?
PS: On the court, we’ve got good pieces at every position two times over. I really feel that we can put any one of our players on the court and am confident that they can do really good things. Last year, we had to hide some guys that would just come in and that night you just hoped that they were ok and a lot of times they weren’t. This year I don’t feel that there’s gonna be anytime with this group that we’re gonna put anyone on the floor that we’re going to have to hide. I don’t think we really have any weaknesses. It’ll just be a matter of how hard we work and how well we play together.
What I love about team is that we’ve got quickness, we’ve good kids that can shoot it. We emphasis sharing the ball, trust that you’ll get it back when you’re open, make the extra pass, defend, rebound. We try to work on that culture. We have the spectacular athleticism of Andrew Parker, we have Broadus’ quickness, we have Funn’s ability to make passes that are Steve Nash-like, and we have the best shooter in the IBL in Steve Sir. We’ve just got so many weapons and at the heart and soul of it I believe, if they share the ball, they’ll be tough to beat.
CBR – Well thank you for your time Coach Sir and we expect that this will not be the last time we talk to you this season. Best of luck this year.
Be sure to check back here at The Can Ball Report or head on over to the Edmonton Energy website here for updates throughout their season. The Energy host the Tacoma Tide this weekend for a three game set at the University of Alberta. If you can't make it to the gym, you can check out the games right here on sportscanada.tv.