Leicester Mercury

Paternostr­o is named Coach



LEICESTER Riders head coach Rob Paternostr­o has won the 2020-21 Ed Percival Molten BBL Coach of the Year award after leading his team to a 24-6 BBL Championsh­ip record and the title in one of the most competitiv­e seasons in BBL history.

It is the sixth time that he has won the award – which is decided by the other BBL coaches – and the fourth time in the last five years.

That means Paternostr­o has now moved ahead of the legendary Kevin Cadle and Fabulous Flournoy, who have five each, as the coach with the most annual awards in BBL history.

Paternostr­o received seven votes from his fellow BBL head coaches, quite some way clear of Paul James of Plymouth Raiders in second place.

Riders’ five BBL Championsh­ip titles have all come under his stewardshi­p, having taken the Leicester role in 2008.

His first league title came in 201213.

Paternostr­o won his first Coach of

the Year award after transformi­ng Riders in that initial 2008-09 season, immediatel­y taking them from tenth to third, and they have only finished below that on three occasions in more than a decade since.

Overall, his team has won 14 pieces of silverware during his reign.

The 48-year-old native of Connecticu­t

– who enjoyed a good playing career in the BBL as a charismati­c point guard from 2000 to 2008 – has built his success on a defensive philosophy.

So he will have been pleased to see his team again end the season as the BBL’s meanest defence, for the fifth completed season in a row, conceding just 76.8 points per game.

Riders held opponents to only 42 per cent shooting from the field, led the league in defensive rebounds and blocked shots, allowed the fewest fast break points, and third fewest points in the paint – and they achieved all of that playing smart defence, giving up the third fewest fouls in the league.

At the other end of the floor, the efficiency of his offence was demonstrat­ed by Leicester leading the BBL in field goal percentage (48.2 per cent), finishing second in points scored per game (87).

They got motoring in the second half of the season, scoring in excess of 90 points on 12 occasions from the end of January onwards.

Riders demonstrat­ed great consistenc­y throughout the campaign, much of which was built on the return of key players to the roster he assembled, with the likes of

Jamell Anderson, Corey Johnson, Darien Nelson-Henry, Mo Walker and Conner Washington all back, alongside whom he added exciting talent such as Geno Crandall and William Lee.

All but Johnson and Walker – who missed much of the season through injury – made either the Molten Team of the Year, All-British Team or Defensive Team.

In a key stretch of games, Riders bounced back from defeat to title rivals London Lions with consecutiv­e road wins at thirdplace­d Plymouth Raiders in early January, which sparked a run of 11 straight wins and establishe­d Riders at the top of the table. After a pair of defeats, Riders bounced back emphatical­ly once more with two wins in the space of three days over fellow top four rivals Newcastle Eagles and, crucially, London Lions in mid-March.

Despite that, the title race would go right down to Leicester’s final game, and reverting to type, they held both of their last two opponents to score totals in the sixties to lift the title on the road at Cheshire Phoenix.

Those two defensive stands saw them overtake Plymouth Raiders as the league’s leading defence to maintain their good run in that regard.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? EXCITING TALENT: William Lee and, far right, Conner Washington
GETTY IMAGES EXCITING TALENT: William Lee and, far right, Conner Washington
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