EAGLES’ play-caller Fab Flournoy has quashed accusations of a crisis in the Tyneside team ahead of this evening’s encounter with the Leicester Riders. Sterling Davis’ Scottish Rocks roster put an end to the New Yorker’s blistering 10-game winning tear five days ago, handing the Eagles only their second defeat of the season.
Earlier this week, Leicester coach Martin Ford suggested there were problems running through the Newcastle camp, with player rifts and roster unrest. ‘I’m led to believe all is not particularly well up there,’ said Ford. ‘I’ve heard that Fab and four of their academy players are consistently beating their starters, and that there’s a bit of tension between Fab and certain players.’
But claims Flournoy’s high-flying roster is in the midst of an in-house crisis – including a number of player spats and personality clashes – have been given a robust riposte.
‘I do not have the slightest idea what he is talking about,” said Flournoy. ‘Unless he is spying on us, I don’t know how he could know that. I have high expectations for this team, and I was disappointed with the game last week, but there is no situation and no problem.’
‘No one is about to lose their job – it’s not that serious. We have lost only two basketball games all season, so I’m not really too worried. We are all going through growing pains in trying to knit the team together, but that’s no different to any other team in this league.’
Flournoy opted for the raw talent of his academy players over the experience of his veterans to close-out last week’s defeat to the Rocks. But the BBL veteran insists that stripping his senior players of court-time was not intended as a punishment.
The New Yorker is adamant his hard-line tactics and uncompromising approach take place off-court in the training room. ‘In this team we have a reward and punishment system and everyone understands that system,” added Flournoy. ‘If you do what you are supposed to be doing in training then you are rewarded by getting the court-time. But if you aren’t then you are punished, whether it is extra training, ‘suicide runs’ (extra-long sprinting exercises) or less court time.’
‘I ended the Rocks game with the academy players because I had already conceded the game. There was no need to risk injuries and it gave the younger players the chance to taste the big games. There were three of four minutes left, and we weren’t playing for anything and I didn’t want to risk injury. I cannot be too upset with the result because it’s only two games in three months. If it was a two or three game losing streak then maybe I would be concerned.’
Any attempt for Flournoy to get his temporarily-derailed title run back on track tonight has taken a massive blow, however, after a number of his key players were struck down with flu. Olu Babalola, Richard Midgley, Lynard Stewart and young-gun Will Spragg have all been hit with illness.
Meanwhile Jeremy Hyatt is also struggling for fitness as he recovers from the tendonitis in his knee that has restricted his involvement over the past month.
‘Everyone’s going to be playing,’ continued Flournouy. ‘But a few of them may be below par. That’s a concern because Martin Ford has done a good job of knitting the Riders together. They have Chad McKnight, the Lithuanian Mindaugas Janiska and Rod Wellington. They are a close-knit unit and they are going out to every game with tremendous energy.’
‘Every team in the league are looking up at us and everyone is wanting to do what Newcastle are doing. That is
going to bring out the best in every team, and everyone will come here and try and make a statement that they can beat the top team.’