Plymouth Raiders have confirmed that long-serving head coach Gary Stronach is to leave the club after 24 years. The Sunderland-born playcaller, who also played 356 games for the Raiders before moving full-time to the bench in 1999, will depart after the final match of the BBL season, on Sunday, against Worthing Thunder.
Stronach, who was thought to be frustrated at the budget cuts imposed last summer, has confirmed he took the decision to seek a fresh challenge within basketball, revealing that the idea "has been brewing for a few years." The search will now begin for a new man to re-build Plymouth ahead of the new campaign. It is likely the Devon side will follow the budgetary lead of many of their rivals and appoint a player-coach to fill the vacancy created by the move although club sources confirmed no decision on that issue has yet been made. Current assistant Gavin Love is expected to be among the candidates.
“I’ve had an absolutely fantastic career as a player, player-coach and head coach of Plymouth,” said Stronach, who revealed he rejected an offer to coach in Belgium three years ago. “I’ve made many friends and acquaintances over my 24 years. I feel the time is now right for me to pursue another challenge at this stage of my career.”
Arguably Stronach’s proudest moment as coach of the Raiders was lifting the BBL Trophy in 2007 following several EBL successes. He was also in charge when the Raiders made the jump from England Basketball’s Division One to the fully professional BBL in 2004.
Raiders Chairman Bob Widdecombe said, “On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Raiders, we’d all like to thank Gary for everything he has done over his 24 years for the club. The club’s present set up is unrecognisable from the club that Gary joined back in 1985. The search for a new coach will start next week, but for this week, the Raiders are focused on the remaining two games of the 2009/10 season.”
The final bow will be an emotional occasion for Stronach with his side missing out on the play-offs after a disappointing campaign that never rebounded fully from a 0-12 start and a series of injuries.
“I’d really like for every fan coming to the game to wear something green,” said Stronach. “Whether it’s a hat, a t-shirt or top, or just something with green on it, I want to be able to look out at a sea of green in my last game with the team, and walk away with some very proud memories of what we have achieved here.”
However, it won’t be Stronach’s final game of the season. The soon-to-be ex-Raiders coach will helm the GB representative team in the BBL All Star game against the Rest of the World squad on May 8 at the NIA in Birmingham.