Five coach happy with first sea­son SUC­CESS

Five coach pleased with first sea­son

The Sudbury Star - - FRONT PAGE - BEN LEE­SON

Lo­gan Stutz wouldn’t be fully sat­is­fied un­less he fin­ished the sea­son with a win.

But one month af­ter the fi­nal buzzer, it’s tough for the Sud­bury Five’s head coach and gen­eral man­ager to call the team’s in­au­gu­ral sea­son in the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball League of Canada any­thing else but a suc­cess.

The Five posted a win­ning record, 21-19, to se­cure third in the Cen­tral Di­vi­sion and reach the post-sea­son, where they lost a hard-fought five-game se­ries against the St. John’s Edge, even­tual NBLC fi­nal­ists.

“I’m re­ally pleased with what we did,” Stutz told The Sud­bury Star. “In­ter­nally, as a group, maybe we wanted to do a lit­tle bit bet­ter, but if you look at it as an out­sider, for just an in­au­gu­ral year, we re­ally did a great job. A lot of teams strug­gle to win 20 games and for us to do it in our first year is re­ally a nice ac­com­plish­ment.”

Sev­eral play­ers had break­out sea­sons — sharp-shoot­ing guards Braylon Rayson and Jaylen Bland won MVP and New­comer of the Year awards, re­spec­tively, while oth­ers set ca­reer marks in terms of points or play­ing time. Many earned op­por­tu­ni­ties in sum­mer leagues abroad and are al­ready un­der­way with their new teams.

“It’s re­ally re­ward­ing to be get­ting emails from all around the world, to be get­ting in­quiries about our guys, and I get to brag about them for a lit­tle while,” Stutz said. “That makes me feel re­ally good as a coach, to see the in­ter­est we’re get­ting from peo­ple, be­cause we’re get­ting the chance to change these guys’ lives and send them on, or ul­ti­mately, maybe we’ll get some of them back for an­other year and then send them on.”

Stutz, a first-year coach and GM, was also hon­oured at sea­son’s end as Ian Fowler Ex­ec­u­tive of the Year.

“I would like to say it’s easy at times and hard at times,” said Stutz of his tran­si­tion from play­ing. “I think that’s prob­a­bly pretty ac­cu­rate. I think I might even be bet­ter at build­ing a team, at the GM side of it, and the coach­ing side of it is once I have in place what I want, it comes down to the lit­tle schemes or the Xs and Os, and that’s an area I re­ally as­pire to get bet­ter at this sum­mer.

“I think I did a good job with what I had, but I also want to get bet­ter. I know there are ar­eas where I look back and say man, if I had more ex­pe­ri­ence, I would have done some­thing dif­fer­ent, but it’s a learn­ing curve.

You can’t take any­thing for granted, whether it’s prepa­ra­tion or mak­ing sure guys know ex­actly what they need to get done. One thing I’ve learned is there’s no team out there that’s too good and there’s no team out there that’s too bad, when you’re look­ing at prepa­ra­tion. You have to re­spect every­body that you play, you have to take them se­ri­ous and even if you have good days or good prac­tices or a good game be­fore, you still have to stick to what you want to get done.”

Win or lose, the Five were cer­tainly able to en­ter­tain with their high-tempo, of­fen­sively ori­ented play­ing style. More than a nov­elty in a long­time ju­nior hockey town, they man­aged to make Sud­bury Com­mu­nity Arena their own with a game-night ex­pe­ri­ence that em­pha­sized fan par­tic­i­pa­tion and in­cluded a DJ and dancers.

Sud­bury was fourth in the NBLC in av­er­age at­ten­dance, and se­cond among On­tario teams, with 2,048 per game.

While much of the fan enthusiasm could be at­trib­uted to the team’s on-court per­for­mance, Stutz be­lieves some of it comes from the team’s ef­forts to make con­nec­tions in the com­mu­nity.

Those yielded even more hard­ware, as for­ward Yo­hanny Dalem­bert re­ceived a com­mis­sioner’s award for out­stand­ing com­mu­nity spirit.

“He didn’t al­ways want it, be­cause he’s such a young player, but he’s one heck of a leader and I think he’s got a bright fu­ture in bas­ket­ball and in life,” Stutz said. “He’s got a nat­u­ral in­stinct to bring guys with him and guys talk to him and he makes them feel com­fort­able. He takes care of them. To do that at the age of 24 is some­thing spe­cial.

“He did a lot for us this year. It was very un­ex­pected and I’m very ap­pre­cia­tive of it.”

Sev­eral play­ers showed lead­er­ship skills in keep­ing the group to­gether dur­ing the sea­son’s rough patches.

Af­ter a red-hot start that in­cluded wins in their first three games, and six in their first eight, the locals hit a rough patch, win­ning only two of 11 from the mid­dle of De­cem­ber to mid-Jan­uary. They fin­ished the month strong, how­ever, to win six of their next seven.

Sud­bury was a threat to win the di­vi­sion by the late part of the reg­u­lar sea­son, fin­ish­ing only one game back of first-place Lon­don.

“We had some great team-bond­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, some ac­tiv­i­ties that we did,” Stutz said. “We tried to eat to­gether a lot, the guys hung out to­gether, played video games to­gether. They had their off-court lives and they in­ter­acted a lot and it’s def­i­nitely im­por­tant that they do that. It’s chal­leng­ing at times, if some­one’s play­ing bad or we lost a

Def­i­nitely, me and my fam­ily want to be back and that’s what we’re work­ing to­wards with the team right now, to make that hap­pen.

cou­ple of games, but you still have to do that. Once guys start to go their own ways, it’s a lot tougher to bring them back. A lot of that comes in­ter­nally, with the play­ers, and some­times the coaches have to step in and help out, but when you’re a team, when you’re a fam­ily, it def­i­nitely makes it a lot eas­ier.”

Stutz has al­ready turned his mind to build­ing next year’s team and im­prov­ing upon the re­sults of Sud­bury’s in­au­gu­ral year. He’s cur­rently work­ing out the de­tails of a new con­tract with the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Def­i­nitely, me and my fam­ily want to be back and that’s what we’re work­ing to­wards with the team right now, to make that hap­pen.

“Look­ing back, it was def­i­nitely some­thing spe­cial, the way the city em­braced us, and I’m look­ing for­ward to next sea­son, as­sum­ing ev­ery­thing is go­ing to work out, so we can take it up a notch. The plan is al­ways to make strides for­ward.”

BEN LEE­SON

Sud­bury Five head coach and gen­eral man­ager Lo­gan Stutz talks to play­ers dur­ing a prac­tice at Cam­brian College in Sud­bury, On­tario on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 15, 2018.

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