A defiant Fabulous Flournoy is prepared to roll with the punches as he ushers in a period of significant change at British basketball’s most successful franchise.
The charismatic New Yorker has suddenly become the centre of attention following back-to-back road defeats and rumours of mounting frustration within the Newcastle Eagles camp.
But when it comes to kneejerk reactions and fan unrest Flournoy has seen it all before and the veteran playcaller won’t be pressing the panic button just yet.
“There was nothing new to learn from the losses at Plymouth and Glasgow,” insisted the Newcastle coach. “We’re just not where we need to be and I already knew that. There’s a process that we need to go through – although we’re a very talented team we’re also a very inexperienced team.
“Playing on the road in the BBL is tough. And no matter what I tell the guys in practice sometimes the only way to learn what that actually means is by experiencing the situation at first hand.
“By no means is there a kneejerk reaction to two losses on the road. It’s not all doom and gloom. But there are certain situations and issues that I need to address.
“They’re the same issues and situations that needed to be addressed when we were winning games. Some people might not look beyond results but as player-coach I have to look at the bigger picture. Even when we were winning things I could still see that certain things weren’t right. Sometimes playing away from home exposes those things.”
Newcastle host Surrey in the BBL Trophy on Friday and a dangerous Scorchers’ side will be sniffing an upset at Sport Central. Flournoy wouldn’t expect anything less.
“We have an identity as a club and there’s a level of expectation associated with everything we do,” he added. “We’re going to take everyone’s best punch, every night, in every game and in every situation.
“I’m used to that but the new guys are still getting to grips with that. As a result I cannot allow them to have any down time. And I also have to accept that from their point of view hearing a message – or seeing a message – is not the same as actually going through it. You have to go through it as an individual and a team before it clicks.
“There are no guarantees and it might never click with some players. But going to places like Plymouth and Glasgow is all part of the learning process.”
Flournoy has been responsible for the growth and development of a slew of BBL favourites for the best part of two decades. But he must prove himself all over again as a player and a coach as his new-look roster deal with the pain of successive defeats for the first time this season. For the veteran forward it’s nothing new.
“Right now too many of my guys just don’t have that experience,” he added. “What they have to understand is that I do. I’m always the guy hounding them day in, day out but that’s because I’ve been a professional in this league for 20 years and I have a certain understanding of what it takes to win games in the BBL.
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle - vs -Worcester WolvesSport CentralBBL Championship
“What they need to realise is that it’s always the same for players new to this league – going right back to TJ Walker. He struggled to start with. People forget how tough Scott Martin found his first season and how Rahmon Fletcher, Paul Gause, Trey Moore, Lynard Stewart and Joe Chapman all found it tough in their first few weeks and months here. They all went on to become big players in the BBL but success didn’t come easy.”
“I’m having to do things differently this season”
The difference is that, by his own admission, Flournoy has been forced to change the way he works in 2017 as he faces up to the most challenging 12 months of his Eagles career.
“I’m having to do things differently this season,” he added. “We have to move with the times. I have to consider the bigger picture. We have the Commonwealth Games to contend with next spring and we could lose three or four players to that.
“I also have more new guys on the team than at any point in my coaching career. I have to find roles for all of those players and still build a team that can win silverware. There’s a new facility on the horizon which is going to affect everything we do on and off the court. That’s a huge consideration.
“And after all of that I still have to find time to coach the guys and make them better players. There’s only one of me and so much work to do. I had to change things this season in order to maximise our efficiency moving forward. The process is ongoing.”