The Rainmen held a season ticket holders meet and greet at the Halifax Westin today. I got there about halfway through after trudging down in the horrible rain. I have a paper to write but here are some very quick thoughts:
- The weather probably kept some people away, but when I got to the Westin there was a fair number of people and there was a pretty good flow through. A good mix of ages including lots of kids.
- I would be crazy uncomfortable in a situation like this if I were a player forced to talk to people in a meeting room at a hotel. That said, the players all seemed nice, even if slightly uncomfortable. Eric and David Bailey seemed to be the most personal. I think Bailey is going to be a fan favourite this year – between his agressive style and dunking abilities and his personality he’s poised to take on a KD type role.
- Rick Lewis seems super excited about the season and I got a bit of an idea about his mindset when it comes to in game coaching. His basic premise is that he expects guys to be able to read the floor without having a whole bunch of exact, set plays in place. He thinks the biggest difference between college and the pros is that in the pros you don’t have every movement diagrammed with the coach calling place from the sideline like it was a football game. He thinks this is the toughest thing to explain to guys coming out of college, and he thinks most of the guys on the team get it since they’ve played professionally before and he’s not helping guys develop if he just treats them like a bunch of robots out there. I think he’s right – but that reading and reacting on the fly all has to happen within a coherent system, and I feel like for most of the season last year the team lacked that system. A good motion offense is good, but the team also needs a half dozen set plays to get looks when they need a score – there is no reason why we can’t see multiple screens being thrown for Silverhorn to come off the baseline to get him open in the corner for a jump shot like Rip Hamilton, or a backdoor screen to get Crookshank an easy dunk. I think there’s a middle ground there. And I also subrscribe to the belief that offense can rely a bit more on creativity but defense needs serious structure.
- Lewis also explained the key difference between building this year’s team and last year’s team: last year they relied on agents to give them players for training and tryout camps but they didn’t see game tape on a lot of guys. Ultimately they weren’t happy with most of the quality they got in the tryout camps last year and, as Lewis pointed out, only 4 players from the training camp were on the roster at the end of the season. This year they’ve either seen every player play a game in person, or they’ve seen complete game tape. They know what they’re getting and they’re a lot happier with it.
- I talked to Eric for a bit and he said some interesting things. He is excited about the team in general and is looking forward to almost exclusively playing PF. He seemed incredibly impressed by Tyronne McNeal – he said he is incredibly athletic and quick for a guy his size and has a really good outside shot. He said the main delay in signing with Halifax had nothing to do with the team and everything to do with the league – his agent wanted to do due dilligence on the PBL to make sure that it was better than the ABA before he agreed to a contract. I think that’s smart represenation. He also confirmed that Vermont were interested but he said that if he was coming back to the PBL it would be to come “home.” Yup – he calls Halifax home. How awesome is that? He also expects big years out of Silverhorn and Sanders.
- Everyone is excited and feel that the team can do well. Crookshank, Lewis and Levingston all think the team can win a title. One player told me he thinks they can go undefeated.
- Daniel Freiberg, Halifax’s assistant coach last year, is also the assistant coach in Vermont this year.
- Rob Sanders is a very, very big man. I talked to him briefly and I felt like a child talking to an adult.
- There was just an over all sense of optimism in the room from the players to the staff to the fans. I have a good feeling and I can’t wait for things to start.
- I got confirmation that they are traveling to Quebec to play a pre-season game.
- The staff all seemed really nice and I met a few people I had never talked to including Shannon Hanson the assistant coach who seems like the happiest man in the world, and someone who I think was Jenn Gillespie who was also really nice and a good looking lady. The thing about the whole Rainmen organization is that they’re a really likable bunch of people. Sometimes I feel bad when I am even a little bit critical.
- Some guys were still looking a bit stiff moving around and a few guys said they can’t wait to get down to just one practice per day.
All in all it seemed like a successful event. The last thing I’ll mention is sort of off topic: Manchester and Quebec split a two game series in Quebec City this weekend – Manchester won the first game by twenty but lost the second by nine after they had two guys go down when they collided heads chasing after a loose ball. This division is looking super tough.