Two years ago
Townsville Crocodiles 2012/2013 season in review..
Now that the Crocs' NBL season is over, it is a good time to reflect on what went wrong during and before the 2012/2013 campaign...
Roster Imbalance - there are six (count em!) guys on this team under 6'3", which is inexcusable for a professional basketball team. It doesn't hurt them on defense so much because guys like Chris Cedar and Mitch Norton have the muscle to body up bigger opponents, but on offense they just can't get anything going at the rim. As much as I love Chris and Mitch, there isn't a place for both of them in this team unless one of them is starting. And neither of them are quite ready for that. Just way too many PGs and undersized SGs. This is basic stuff. Like, really, really basic stuff:
Gary Ervin - listed at 6'0", actually more like 5'8" or 9". Mitch Norton towers over him.
Mitch Norton - 5'11"
Chris Cedar - 6'1"
Michael Cedar - 6'3" (shorter in real life)
Peter Crawford - 6'3" (shorter in real life)
Brendan Teys - 6'2"
Clint Steindl - grew up down the road in Mackay. Plays the position that the Crocs are shallowest at (SF) and has a skillset that they have very little of (3pt shooting, athleticism). Has been playing with and against guys like Chris Cedar and Todd Blanchfield since he was a little kid. Played with Ben Allen at St Mary's. Playing in Townsville would mean he would be closer to his family in Mackay. Can someone tell me why this kid isn't a Croc?
Peter Crawford - is not a franchise player. They paid him like one, and the front office talks about him as if he is a top 3 player in the league. Again it's the same stubbornness from the front office. This isn't a knock on PC. He just needs help. He's not a first-option on offense on a winning team. Age has really caught up with his brittle knees this year after an off-season playing for the national team. Guys aren't supposed to get two-year contracts with pay-rises at age 33. The Crocs gave him one.
Opponent Scouting - the Crocs seem to pay no attention to what other teams are doing ahead of time. They throw out the same strategies regardless of opponent. This is purely defensively-speaking, as the Crocs have no offensive strategies.
Coaching - every basket I have seen the Crocs score this season has come off a one-on-one situation, a fast-break, or another "impromtu" situation. No one scores from an offensive set, ever. This is the coaching staff.
Free Agent Scouting / Recruiting - Woolpert spent an entire Summer in the US evaluating imports and came up with not one but two duds. One was a small forward who he tried to cram into the PG slot; the other a soft power forward who he tried to make a center. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when you try to go after an import center, you better go to the table with an open wallet or you are going to get a dud. The fans were promised a back-to-the-basket monster, 6’10", great hands, a franchise corner-stone of an import at the 5. Instead we got Ben Allen. In addition, they signed no Australian talent despite losing their Aussie centrepiece in Luke Schenscher (instead choosing to replace him with...Russell Hinder).
Shot Selection - Michael Cedar, Chris Cedar, Ben Allen, Larry Abney and Jacob Holmes are the worst offenders here. Which is half of the roster shooting terrible shots early in the shot clock, consistently, all game long. Not good enough. It’s the players’ fault for launching so much garbage but it’s the coachs’ fault for not tearing them a new one every time they hurl steaming turds in the vague direction of the rim.
Upper Management - after years of alienating the local fan base and local corporate sponsors following the demise of the fantastic regime that reigned until David Carmichael left the franchise, the front office has put an on-court product together to match their incompetence off the court. There are entire corporate boxes just completely empty at every home game. Crowd numbers are way down across the board. The stadium is dead-quiet in the closest of matches in crunch time. To boot, their stubbornness in penny-pinching in bringing in the decaying corpses of Larry Abney and Russell Hinder while elevating Ben Allen to a starting spot based on a couple of decent pre-season games (instead of signing actual basketball players) is inexcusable. The board aren't happy and will certainly show CEO Ian Smythe the door soon. The only question is whether they will wait for the season to finish to do so...
Let's take a look at what Crocs CEO Ian Smythe has done wrong since last season ended, in chronological order:
1. Whines to the press about contract negotiations with Luke Schenscher, completely botching the whole ordeal. Schenscher would later say that he had in no way made up his mind or even started negotiations at that point, and that Smythe was just talking absolute nonsense about what should have been private negotiations. Way to piss off one of the best centers in the league that you were trying to re-sign. That was all Luke needed to book a ticket home to Adelaide and the Crocs' lost their cornerstone.
2. Whines to the press about Peter Crawford's contract negotiations, alienating their only remaining "franchise player". PC re-signs, but very well could have walked.
3. Goes public that Ben Allen and Michael Cedar are not being re-signed due to their on-court failings. Re-signs them both the next day.
4. Announces on twitter that they have narrowed their search down to two import centres and will have an announcement the next day. The next day comes around and the Crocs announce the signing of dud Curtis Withers, a player who was not even on the shortlist Smythe announced the day before. Obviously botched negotiations with the two other guys and, clutching at straws, reached out to Withers.
5. Axes both Jason Forte and Curtis Withers before the season starts. Replaces Forte with Gary Ervin (good) and Withers with Larry Abney (baaaaaaad).
Once Smythe is gone, is a shift towards the community model the answer to gaining a little more accountability and transparency from the front office? Almost certainly.
So what has gone right this year?
Two things and two things only: Gary Ervin and Todd Blanchfield. Everyone else is playing at a standard (skill-wise AND effort-wise) that is not really deserving of a pay cheque even in a semi-professional league. Jacob Holmes is rebounding well but his absolutely psychotic shot selection is undoing the benefit of every board he grabs.