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Rob Beveridge: Preparing to take flight

Putting together a playing roster is no easy task. Each year there is the tough assignment of retaining players and exhaustive searches to find new ones. But where to start? Local or abroad? Defence or offence? Take a leap of faith and build around a marquee signing? Talk about a jigsaw. This year that jigsaw has become a little more complex with the return of the Brisbane Bullets, the increase in roster spots and a switch to a soft salary cap – meaning even more player movement throughout the off-season. In this situation, a coach has got to be pretty clear on what he wants and where he can find it. Especially when starting from scratch – which is exactly the challenge head coach Rob Beveridge is facing. As it stands, the Illawarra Hawks don’t have a single contracted player for the upcoming 2016/17 NBL season. Fortunately, Beveridge isn’t new to this situation. “I’ve done this a few times now, obviously starting with Western Sydney Razorbacks that had a clean slate,” he explained. “Then I went off to Perth, and I think I had about eight changes in my first year as well. “Last year with the Hawks was another fresh start.” Beveridge, who in his five seasons as an NBL coach has never produced less than a semi-finals appearance for his club, will be focused on maintaining that record. “Probably one of the most important things is - and this is what I did last year - will be ensuring you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. “It was important there was a blend of players that everybody knows in Wollongong - you don’t want to just come and clean out. “So I decided to keep a whole lot of players that were on that roster that I felt could fit into my style of game.” For Bevo, the only thing more important than getting a player to fit into his game plan is making sure he’ll fit in off the court. “I’ve learned through experience that whenever you’re building, it’s got to be about the character of the player,” he said. “Everyday you’re training, you’re travelling, you’re pretty much spending seven days a week together for seven or eight months of the year so you’ve got to have incredible chemistry. There’s no point in recruiting bad people.” This has always been a mark of Beveridge’s teams and he states that Illawarra’s team chemistry last season was a crucial factor in his decision to sign a new four-year contract with the club. “It was as good as I’ve ever had in any team, which is why I have chosen to stay here in Wollongong and continue building the program.” Most notably, Illawarra’s program will need to prioritise filling the massive hole in their starting five, with the loss of NBL NVP Kevin Lisch – who recently signed with rival NSW side the Sydney Kings Despite the introduction of a third restricted (import) player on the roster, Beveridge is understandably not hyping things up. “I know that’ll I’ll still get three very good imports, but will they be highly-credentialed NBA guys? I doubt it very much.” Without the spending power of some of the bigger clubs, Beveridge has to find the right player at the right price - but this is where his 20 years of coaching experience will really pay off. “Because I’ve coached for such a long time I’ve actually coached a few players over the years that are now coaching in the USA. “I’ve also got two or three extremely close friends that work in the NBA so I’ve reached out to them. “For example, Adam Tatalovich was my assistant coach at Perth and he’s now at the Sacramento Kings, another one is Mike Schmitz at the Memphis Grizzlies. There are people out there that I have personal relationships with and I can ring them up and say ‘this is what I need’ and they know me, they know my personality. “That’s how I got Kevin Lisch. They said ‘tough as nails, hard-nosed and fits in your system’ and obviously that worked pretty well for us. "Now, we just go back to the drawing board.”
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