Sport

Canberra Capitals ramp up search for new coach after awards end an era

The Canberra Capitals will ramp up their search for a new coach after ending an era at their post-season celebration on Wednesday night, with officials hoping to have Carrie Graf's replacement finalised within a month.

The Capitals also revealed their intention to shift away from their AIS Arena base to instead use the Convention Centre in Civic for home matches with some WNBL games to be played at Tuggeranong and Belconnen.

Carrie Graf and Jess Bibby attend the Canberra Capitals presentation night at the University of Canberra,
Carrie Graf and Jess Bibby attend the Canberra Capitals presentation night at the University of Canberra, Photo: Melissa Adams

Star forward Abby Bishop claimed her third consecutive most valuable player award at the end-of-season function while departing veteran Jess Bibby went out on a high by claiming the players' player prize.

The awards signalled the end of a golden generation, with Bibby, Graf and Lauren Jackson all being farewelled after helping the club to seven titles in the past 17 years.

Abby Bishop won the best player award,
Abby Bishop won the best player award, Photo: Jay Cronan

The Capitals have almost finished a wide-ranging review into their basketball operations - conducted by former general manager Lachlan Searle - as they plot a path to rebuild the club.

And with just two players locked in to return next season - Alice Coddington and Abbey Wehrung - the Capitals will start with a new coach and a clean slate for the 2016-17 season.

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"We want to look forward after the end-of-season dinner. We'll be looking to put a head coach in place as soon as possible," Capitals boss Joe Roff said.

"Hopefully that is within a month to align with the start of free agency for the WNBL. We're looking at what a holistic player looks like.

"Essentially we've got a clean slate, but we want the head coach involved in the type of player we want and we want to develop Opals to get back to find young talent who are seeking to be the best."

Bishop made it a hat-trick of Capitals most valuable awards after another stellar season where she led from the front.

She was the stand-out performer in a season that will go down as one of the worst in the club's history as they won just two of 24 matches.

Young gun Stephanie Talbot was named the Kellie Abrams defensive player of the year as she strives for a spot in the Rio Olympic Games squad, while Wehrung was named as the club's rising star.

The rising stars could be part of the new-generation Capitals, as officials go over the review and look at why the club has won just 34 per cent of its games over the past five years.

The report features 54 recommendations to reinvent the team, with the club likely to target up-and-coming talent to build a generation of stars rather than splashing cash to recruit big names.

Former AIS coach Phil Brown, ex-Sydney Kings mentor Damian Cotter, Australian under-19s coach Paul Goriss and Chris Lucas loom as potential coaching candidates.

The Capitals have also opened discussions with Basketball Australia about the club's future.

Roff, an ACT Brumbies and Wallabies great, likened the Capitals' fresh start to the beginning of Super Rugby in Canberra when the Brumbies recruited rejects and unknown players.

"We've celebrated the end of an era but that means it's the start of a new one. That's exciting, we've started on the review's recommendations," Roff said.

"We can create something from scratch without forgetting the unique brand of the Capitals. Look at the Brumbies when they first started - it wasn't about winning a title in your first year. It was about creating something special."

Roff also hoped shifting home games to the Convention Centre would help bring back crowds, with the court being built for the move.

The Capitals will work with the University of Canberra to create contracts for players that also offer study opportunities.

Bibby walks away from the WNBL as the most capped player in the competition's history while Graf is stepping away from the club she transformed into the most dominant team in the league.

CAPITALS AWARD WINNERS

Most valuable player: Abby Bishop

Players' player: Jess Bibby

Kellie Abrams defensive award: Stephanie Talbot

Capital on the rise: Abbey Wehrung