Home > Basketball > Friendship, trust lure Brian Goorjian back to the NBL after 11 years – Sydney Morning Herald

Friendship, trust lure Brian Goorjian back to the NBL after 11 years – Sydney Morning Herald

“In every league there are things you like and things you don’t but that insecurity ate at me and not having it was a tremendous relief.”

Goorjian became China’s most respected foreign coach over the past 11 years and if it wasn’t for the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the CBA season into suspension and sending him home in January, he may still be there.

But while reconnecting with the local basketball community, Goorjian reflected on what he was missing from meeting up with old friends to working out Australian national team players during the lockdown.

Brian Goorjian gets a soaking as his Sydney Kings celebrate their third successive NBL championship in 2005.Credit:Tim Clayton

When the CBA’s return was pushed back to May and then to June, the out-of-contract Goorjian thought more and more about the NBL.

“I’ve had a chance to watch the end of the NBL season, the play-offs and I’ve got familiarised with the league and getting around the basketball community again,” Goorjian said.

“That got to my emotions a bit.”

During that time his good friend Dorry Koldahi was working on a bid to buy NBL franchise the Hawks, formerly known as Illawarra Hawks.

Over many conversations Goorjian was convinced the new owners were legitimately capable of turning the NBL’s perennial strugglers into a serious sporting club.

On Monday, Goorjian was announced as their coach for the next two seasons.

Goorjian never felt so low as the 2007-08 season when his three-time champion Sydney Kings were battling for the NBL title while failing off-court under new ownership.

Koldahi became a rock for Goorjian and the team as they would eventually lose an epic five-game series to Chris Anstey’s Melbourne Tigers then folded soon after.

“It was probably my worst year in basketball,” Goorjian said.

“Dorry was involved in the team but wasn’t affiliated with Firepower [the main owners]. He stood shoulder to shoulder with me and helped me stay motivated and focused each day.

“He was so helpful to me. We ended up losing the Tigers in five games and as I walked out of the parking lot at the Kingdome Dorry put his arm around me and said, ‘Some day I’m going to get my own team and you will be my coach’.”

That trust and friendship is something Goorjian has never had with owners and he was “extremely impressed” with the plans Kordahi and fellow owners Bryan Colangelo and Michael Proctor have in mind.

“I’m convinced with this or I wouldn’t have signed,” Goorjian said.

“I can’t tell you how many owners have told me, ‘I’m in this for the long haul’, but you can’t take out the component of time, trust. I’ve never had that before. I trust him and I believe in him and I have no second thoughts.

“They are going to build a strong franchise, not only on the court but off the court.”

Goorjian still knows the NBL has to battle for every bit of spotlight and he sat through 12 media interviews on Tuesday and had several more booked for Wednesday.

He’s also reaching out to young Hawks players Sunday Dech, Sam Froling, Angus Glover and Emmett Naar who showed promise last season but have had to endure their club going into administration and then new ownership.

The Hawks will be late into the player market but with the pandemic raising questions about leagues around the world, Goorjian sees opportunities.

“I know what those guys have been through but I’m hitting them up and telling them my plans,” Goorjian said.

“We are late out of the blocks but with the pandemic what does Europe hold? What does the US hold or college hold? There are some guys out there who might shake loose if we are patient.

“We have a clean slate and in those three or four young players, they’ve got some talent.”

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