Breakers' review awaits after Bruton farewell
Embattled Breakers coach Dean Vickerman says he'll start a frank and forthright review process as soon as he's got the farewell to club legend CJ Bruton out of the way.
The Breakers finish their season on Friday night at Vector Arena with what they hope will be a sell-out clash against the Cairns Taipans that is all about No 23, six-year Breaker and future Australian NBL Hall of Famer Bruton.
As at Thursday lunchtime they had sold just under 7000 tickets and were pushing their hardest to get the maximum in the house for what's sure to be an emotional night for one of the league's most beloved players.
It will be Bruton's final game after six years, and three championships, with the Breakers - though possibly not his final ANBL outing. He has not ruled out continuing his career back in Australia, though says he has nothing confirmed yet.
At 11-16 the Breakers have no chance to sneak into the playoff picture and will finish with their first losing season since 2006-07.
It's been a disappointing campaign all told, marked by inconsistency, an inability to win on the road (they were 3-11) and some dreadful defending from a team which has never come to terms with an effective style under the league's new clampdown on over-physicality.
Vickerman said a thorough review process would start on Monday and the rookie coach pledged to listen to anyone with a valid opinion.
"We'll get through the coaches first, then start getting to the players Wednesday to Friday. It's going to happen really quickly, and as a new coach you want as much feedback as you can get to be better," Vickerman said today.
"So they're going be very important [meetings] for me and as a club in terms of how we move forward."
Vickerman said it was important for the club to make the adjustments it needed to - and quickly.
"You look around the league, say when Melbourne had a little patch when they went to four Grand Finals in row, when Adelaide had their patch, and Sydney had theirs. The clubs couldn't sustain it.
"Now we've got to find a way to say 'all right, we've had a little dip in our performance this year, how to we get straight back up there?' That's our goal in review - how do we get better for next year?"
Bruton's exit interview could be the most telling, with the veteran already on the record bemoaning the team's "chemistry" issues this season.
Vickerman said he would be foolish not to take heed of everything Bruton has to say given the veteran's standing in the game.
"We've talked about some of those things through the year. We basically turned over 60 percent of our group, so things were always going to be different, and you're not going to have the same synergy as previous. It's now about how do we get that back."
Some change will be unavoidable for the North Shore club. They could have as many as four roster spots to fill, depending on their decisions around imports.
In the meantime Vickermen pledged to put all his focus into making sure his Breakers give the departing Bruton the farewell he deserves.
"His contribution to the club is undeniable, the [special tribute] uniform looks great, and everyone is pretty pumped about trying to finish the right way for him," Vickerman said.
The Breakers and Taipans both come in with 11-16 records and no chance to feature in the post-season. But it's the New Zealanders who clearly have the motivational edge on a night that will be a true celebration of Bruton's special qualities.
"The best thing we can do for him right now is to pack that venue and send him out hopefully with him getting a few three-balls and throwing the arms in the air," Vickerman said.
What price one more Bruton masterclass? You know the little gunner will be trying his best.
BRUTON'S ANBL STATISTICS
515 Appearances - 10th all time
7663 Points - 18th all time
1853 assists - 11th all time
BRUTON'S BREAKERS STATISTICS
178 Appearances - fourth all time (Henare 250, Vukona 235, Boucher 220)
Third most wins in a Breakers singlet, 120 from 178 appearances - Only Boucher and Vukona have recorded more
2038 Points - second all time behind Kirk Penney (2517)
463 Assists - third all time (Henare 902, Boucher 637)
170 Steals - third all time (Boucher 289, Henare 210)
Most points in a single game for the Breakers, 32 vs Melbourne Tigers, October 8, 2009