The guiding lights for Bullets’ milestone man
THE people and the process.
They have always been - and always will be - the guiding lights for Brisbane Bullets mentor Andrej Lemanis, who brings up his 300th game as an NBL head coach this Thursday night.
Lemanis will be the 13th man in NBL history to reach the milestone when the Bullets take on Cairns at the Cairns Convention Centre in the third "Sunshine Stoush'' of the season.
After serving as an assistant coach with the Townsville Crocs, Lemanis took the reins at the New Zealand Breakers in 2006.
He guided the Breakers to a hat-trick of titles from 2011-13 and collected two NBL coach of the year gongs in the process before leaving to take up the Australian Boomers post he still holds.
Lemanis says the silverware is not always the highlight.
"It's about the people and the journey along the way. The biggest reward in coaching has always been seeing others achieve their full potential. Maybe being a part of that journey for people always gives you a buzz,'' Lemanis said.
"Championships are nice but to me it's about getting into the process, caring about the people and letting it play out. That's the reward.
"The only thing you have to worry about is getting better each day.''
The rise of Peter Crawford from Crocs development player to 2012 Olympian and Torrey Craig's elevation from the Bullets to the NBA are two success stories he takes great pride in.
The one game that stands out for Lemanis is game two of the 2011 semi-final series against Perth.
Minor premier New Zealand were smashed at home by the Wildcats in the series opener when Breakers talisman Mika Vukona injured his knee.
But a hobbling Vukona and a red-hot Kirk Penney inspired the under-pressure Breakers to a win in Perth to spark their run to a maiden title.
"In many ways, as I understand it, that win saved my coaching career. If we lost that one, I could have been gone. It was a pretty special win when you consider everything and things turned out pretty good after that,'' he said.
Having a milestone game against the Taipans is not new to Lemanis, who coached his first and 200th game against Cairns. He also won his first championship with the Breakers against the Taipans in 2011.
He said Brisbane's 85-77 win over Sydney on Saturday was full of positives that could be carried into the clash with Cairns.
"Defensively, holding them to 77 points was really good while the spread of scoring was really good as well,'' he said.
"We've been playing pretty well over the last five or six games without getting the results to suggest that.''
Meanwhile, American guard Bryce Cotton erupted for 36 points to lead reigning NBL champions Perth to a 99-91 victory in Wollongong.
As was the case in last year's grand final series between the two sides, the Hawks couldn't thwart Cotton, who stole the show with his season-high haul.
ANDREJ LEMANIS THE MILESTONE MAN
Games as an NBL head coach: 299 (NZ Breakers 2006-2013, Brisbane Bullets 2016 - present)
Wins: 165 Losses: 134 Winning percentage: 55 %
NBL championships: 2011, 2012 and 2013
NBL Coach of the Year: 2012 and 2013
13th head coach to reach 300 NBL games
Fourth man in NBL history to win a title as a player and a coach (Phil Smyth, Jerry Lee and Cal Bruton)