So the votes are in. And there’s a convincing winner.
Fabulous Flournoy, living up to the name, is the Coach of the Year in the eyes of both the Basketball Journalists Association and among the New Yorker’s peers, who vote in the BBL’s international awards.
I confess that I put Worthing’s Dave Titmuss one place ahead of Flournoy on my ballot but there is no disputing the job that he has done on Tyneside over the past seven year.
Being a player-coach is no easy ride. Flournoy’s legendary drive, 7am practices, and general intolerance of anything less than the fabled 100 per cent, would have taken Newcastle into a position of strength even if their budget were not among the highest in the league.
“Hiring him initially was a risky decision in some ways but I saw something in Fab the year before that made me think this guys could be the next Chris Finch or Nick Nurse,” said Eagles owner Blake in tribute. “It was clear he had that character but we didn’t know if he understood the Xs and Os. But eight years later, it’s clear he has an absolute command of it.
“The only reason we’ve not seen the full scope of his abilities is that I keep putting him in the difficult position of continuing to be a player as well. “But I’m keen to get to a position where Fab can retire and focus exclusively on coaching.”
The award also reflects Flournoy’s backroom staff, from former assistant Billy Spragg (whose mid-season departure has not yet been explained), recruitment supremo and one-man brains trust Dave Forrester, and team statistics-cruncher Jeff King.
By contrast, there was no unanimity when it came to determining the best player in the league.
The journalists went for Joe Chapman. The coaches for Mike Cook.
The Eagles guard, I admit, came second on my ballot (to Rob Yanders, if you’re interested) for the manner in which he adjusted to coming off the bench to provide spectacular consistency for the league champions. In many ways, the greatest compliment comes from Flournoy himself – in the way, he handed over that sparkplug role to Chapman, allowing the coach to spend more time, um, coaching.
For me, Cook is a baffling choice from the men who call the plays. He’s had some terrific offensive performances and dominated at times. But he doesn’t defend (much) and he has gone AWOL more than once in big games. Arguably, Ryan Patton has proven more valuable to Sheffield, judging on how his injury almost certainly cost the Sharks the title.
I’ve had more than one Tweet/email/text on Luol Deng winning the BJAUK International Player of the Year, ahead of Joel Freeland and Matt Bryan-Amaning. “What has he done other than play in the NBA?” I was asked.
True. But that’s democracy in action, as we’ll witness again on Thursday.