Those close to the club saw the warning signs weeks ago. Mark Price, the star player but unproven coach, wasn’t blending in with the organisation.
His introverted nature and devout religious beliefs made it hard for people to embrace or even see him after hours; a time he spent with a family trying to acclimatise to a foreign country.
He was the trophy coach of a new team, the most famous basketball player ever to be associated with the NBL, but as many will conclude after yesterday’s events, a name doesn’t make you immune if the points aren’t on the board.
He may not have had any real coaching experience, but his distinguished career as a player earned him respect in a country whose biggest basketball name is a bloke who enjoyed only modest success in the world’s best league.
The problem is that being respected as a player didn’t equate to being respected as a coach. Something that Shane Heal made clear yesterday. “When he came in, everyone respected what Mark Price had done as a player,” he said, “and he’ll leave with that same respect of what he did as a player.”
But the question must be asked: Are the Dragons hoping to gain some credibility by being seen to make the tough decisions after letting him go so early in the season? Ironically, the same credibility they hoped to gain by hiring him in the first place.
If so, what are we to make of them choosing their starting point guard as their new coach? Have they made the same mistake again? Shane Heal, after all, has even less head coaching experience than Price.
Or are the Dragons still so insecure that they need to hire a name rather than an experienced “no name” coach?
Equally confusing is Heal’s first decision to fire former NBA player Todd Fuller. Is he trying to say that the Dragons will not carry people just because of their name?
All very noble, but you’d have to say Heal won his new appointment on that very basis – he’s the biggest name on the Dragons’ roster (and, arguably, the NBL) but that doesn’t give him any more coaching credentials than the man he is replacing.
Wouldn’t it have been better if Heal became assistant coach and learned the ropes while someone with more experience, such as current assistant Scott Ninnis, tried to steady the ship?
The Dragons have a lot of learning to do if they want to survive. Lesson one: Hire qualified people.