Lemanis' New Zealand days may be numbered
He’s delivered two Australian championships and has his New Zealand Breakers right on track for an historic threepeat, but Andrej Lemanis’ days as head coach of the Auckland-based club could be numbered.
Lemanis has applied for the job as head coach of the Australian men’s national team, the Boomers.
Applications close Friday and Basketball Australia is expected to settle on their man soon after.
Lemanis is bookies’ favourite to get the nod, having served as an assistant to previous incumbent Brett Brown for four years. He has well and truly earned his head coaching bones with the Breakers, having taken the Kiwi outfit from competition doormats to the NBL’s pre-eminent club during his eight seasons in Auckland.
Previous Boomers head coaches have mixed the job with club commitments but key Breakers officials confirmed to Fairfax Media yesterday that if Lemanis lands the gig he wants it to be a fulltime commitment.
That would mean the Australian native would sever ties with the Breakers at the end of this season as they shoot for just the second title threepeat in the league’s history.
“I don’t think the plan is to do both,” said Breakers General manager Richard Clarke yesterday. “If he goes to the Boomers, he’ll go fulltime.”
Clarke confirmed Lemanis’ preference was to go fulltime, if chosen. “From working with Brett, the pressures on doing it part-time and managing club commitments, he feels he wouldn’t be doing himself or us any favours trying do them both at the same time.”
Lemanis said he had submitted his application and was now waiting to hear from Basketball Australia as far as what the next step would be. He said he “didn’t know” whether their preference was for the position to be full or part-time.
But Clarke said the Breakers were comfortable instituting a succession plan if their talismanic coach lands the most important job in Australian basketball.
“It’s the same approach as we have with the players. If Tommy [Abercrombie] goes to the NBA good on him, if Cedric goes, that’s good. So if Andrej gets a head coaching job with the Boomers, that’s a great opportunity, and it’s good for us.
“With [assistant coaches] Deano (Dean Vickerman) and Juddy (Judd Flavell) we’ve got a pretty good succession plan there. Drej came to us after seven years as an assistant, and Deano has done more than that across three clubs.”
There are also a raft of young coaches coming through the New Zealand game, including former Tall Blacks Pero Cameron, Paul Henare and Michael Fitchett, while soon-to-retire Breaker Dillon Boucher has also been pegged as having a big future in that side of the game.
Meanwhile, Lemanis joins an exclusive club when he brings up 250 games for the club in tomorrow night’s clash against the Adelaide 36ers at Vector Arena.
Only Aussie coaching legends Lindsay Gaze (Melbourne Tigers), Brian Kerle (Brisbane Bullets), Brendan Joyce (Wollongong Hawks) and Phil Smyth (Adelaide 36ers) have passed the mark with one club.
“There was a time I guess when 50 was looking a long way away,” said Lemanis. “That is testament to the club and people who run the organisation -- how we’ve done it as a team, and how we’ve built as a team. There’s been a lot of people who have contributed.”
Lemanis highlighted the two championships and the first playoff run as standout moments, reckoned the emotional ups and downs were all part of sport and said it was the players who gave him the ultimate payback.
“A lot of the reward comes in seeing people get better, seeing people develop into the people they can be and thinking maybe you had a small piece to play in that along the way,” he said.
His main challenge this week is ensuring his players are up to speed after 13 days between games and a rare weekend off. A few verbals at training yesterday indicated the edge wasn’t far off.
“When they’re bitching and moaning about calls, it’s always good,” said the man many believe is the Boomers coach in waiting.