After a tumultuous season that saw the Melbourne Tigers miss the playoffs for a third straight year, changes were required at Tiger land. While there is daily speculation about personnel changes, Melbourne CEO Michael Slepoy and his team are busy ushering in a new era of Tiger basketball both on and off the court.
Some fan favourites have left the club, including leading scorer Cam Tragardh but some new faces have already appeared, beginning the transformation. As with all clubs at this time of year, there are still some lingering issues but I sat down with Michael to discuss some of the positive changes going on around the club.
Paul Henderson: Talk to us about the direction of the Melbourne Tigers next season, from a club perspective. With a disappointing season just past, how do you re-energise and get back to the playoffs?
Michael Slepoy: It’s really a new start, starting from a new logo.. all the way through to mentality, to where we train, the professionalism and 100% contribution from the guys rather than what happened last season.
PH: Word has it you’re intending to play games at HiSense next season. Can you tell us a bit about that?
MS: We’re chatting to HiSense, they’re very receptive, they’re very [communicative]. As we know, the NBL schedule is not finalised but should be finalised any day now. So we’ll be able to take it back to HiSense and we will endeavour to book as many games as we can.. taking into account Australian Open (tennis) timetable.
PH: A move to Sandringham as a training venue is also reportedly on the cards, can you tell us a bit about the move and the reasons behind it?
MS: North (North Melbourne Football Club) were wonderful hosts for us and they’ve been as helpful as a football club can be to a basketball club. However, there is only one basketball court (at Aegis Park) whereas Sandringham has a number of courts. At North, we’re sharing local facilities with North football players and at Sandringham we’ll have our own locker room, our own rest room where guys will be able to relax after training or have lunch or watch video… [we'll have the] ability to call it home and take ownership of the locker rooms… which is very important.
PH: I see they’ve got a pool and all sorts of facilities in the complex too.
MS: It’s a huge complex. It may not be as new and glossy as North Melbourne but it’s a huge complex with all the facilities and perfectly suits the needs of the club.
PH: The new Melbourne Tigers logo has been released recently, talk us through some of the changes. Does this mean there will be a new uniform look for the upcoming season?
MS: The logo signifies the new start and not much more than that… when one revamps everything, one feels a necessity for a more modern, new identity. As we do more and more things in line, as we change our style of management, the change of logo is simply symbolic and to me it has no more significance than a new start..
PH: What is next season’s objective – What’s the main goal for season 12/13?
MS: Objective is playoffs on the floor, and establishment of greater membership base and attraction, to older associations embracing the junior associations… that connection of junior grass roots basketball with the Melbourne Tigers which is vastly important for the future of the sport.
All in all, one can see the excitement in Michael as he discusses the changes being made. Getting NBL games played at HiSense Arena again would go a long way towards truly pleasing basketball fans Melbourne-wide, regardless of their team allegiances.
Clearly the mission is to excite the Melbourne sporting public with basketball again and as of right now the background work is being done to ensure the bright lights can shine once again on Olympic Boulevard. As all hoops fans will attest, Melbourne’s sporting precinct just hasn’t quite been the same since basketball moved out to the Cage.
A new management structure, new roster, new logo, a new practice facility are all in the works, as Michael and his team look to make the changes necessary to compete. A new uniform will also be revealed in the coming months, setting up a brand new start as the Tigers embark on their journey to get back to the top.