ROOKIE Melbourne Tigers coach Chris Anstey has vowed the club will be a legitimate challenger for the National Basketball League championship next season as he attempts to help usher it out of a period of instability.
Anstey, 37, has become the Tigers' fourth coach in 16 months after Trevor Gleeson's contract was shredded one season into a three-year deal by the club’s new owners, Dodo co-founders Larry Kestelman and Michael Slepoy.
Anstey had recently returned as the club’s director of basketball. He will have Darryl McDonald - another former Tigers' playing great - as an assistant, along with Rohan Short, who had been Gleeson’s right-hand man.
The Tigers have been mired in a period of instability in the past three years - they haven’t made the playoffs in this time - but Anstey says he will work to improve relationships inside the club and with other basketball associations.
‘‘It’s not that broken. We want to play playoff basketball this year and we want to be challenging for a championship straight away,’’ he said today.
‘‘It’s something that I have always wanted to do, to coach.’’
Anstey may have limited coaching experience, he is currently in charge of a first division Big V team, but his playing pedigree cannot be questioned.
He won a championship with the South East Melbourne Magic under coach Brian Goorjian and two with the Tigers under Al Westover. He has also played in the NBA, Europe and at two Olympic Games for the Boomers.
Anstey revealed he had also applied for the coaching role with the proposed second Melbourne-based franchise. However, that club ultimately failed in its bid to enter the NBL next season because it could not produce the required finances.
"I had made made tentative applications to the new Melbourne franchise with Darryl but that obviously didn’t get up. We were very keen to pursue that," Anstey said.
‘‘That falling over probably left me with the sense that it (coaching) probably wouldn’t happen for quite a period of time, so to have the opportunity I suppose fall in our lap has been a fantastic opportunity and one that I didn’t think would happen for a longer period of time but one that I am happy for.’’
Anstey will now continue to search for playing talent, in particular a second import, with pre-season training to begin soon.
His appointment ends a messy couple of months for the Tigers.
Gleeson was told on March 26 it was unlikely he would have the opportunity to complete the final two years on his contract.
He was then put on paid leave when he returned from holidays last month, having asked for a pay-out.
The Tigers, much to Gleeson’s amazement, then revealed they were investigating him for a breach of contract. The specifics of this remain somewhat unexplained, with the club confirming the investigation was over with Gleeson’s ‘‘record and reputation as a coach unblemished’’.
Kestelman said the new ownership simply felt Gleeson wasn’t the right man in the long term.
‘‘The investigation as such was into whether we felt that Trevor would be someone that would lead the club in a coaching role for many more years to come, not a question of one year or multiple years,’’ he said.
‘‘What we decided is he is not someone that we want leading our playing staff. It is not a reflection on him.
He has a style that we felt is not one that we would be comfortable with long term and, for us, this is all about building a club that will be, with its pedigree, a winning club. His vision did not match ours.
‘‘He has a style that has worked very well for him, the way he goes about business, and it’s different to ours. Any new employer that takes over any business, you have a look at who you have, and it does not mean that one works or the other one doesn’t, it’s just different.’’
Kestelman said there had not been a breach of contract.
‘‘No, I don’t believe there were any breaches as such. I think it was a question of investigating every aspect of his tenure here. We went through the same process with all staff,’’ he said.
Gleeson has been awarded an undisclosed pay-out.