Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Week That Was -- Feb. 22


Ken Murray (Photo: St. Catharines Standard)

Ken Murray out, Grâce Lokole in, as Niagara Makes a Coaching Change

The Niagara River Lions created a buzz around NBL Canada, relieving head coach Ken Murray of his duties, and naming Grâce Lokole as interim head coach. Murray, who's hiring was one of the first announcements made by the fledgling franchise, had led the team to a competitive, albeit unsuccessful start. The River Lions sit last in the Central Conference with a record of 5-14, but exactly half of those losses have been by 6 points or less.

Murray had previously been the men's basketball coach at Brock University from 1989-2010, winning two CIS championships along the way. The River Lions marked his first test at the pro level, and it was a opportunity Murray came out of retirement for, assuming the role of GM as well. His replacement, Lokole, had been an assistant coach on the team prior to the move.

Comparing the River Lions to previous expansion teams

In light of the recent news, let's take a look at how the River Lions stack up to previous expansion teams in NBL Canada history:

Point Differential
Windsor Express
2nd in Conf., 3rd in NBL
Lost in 2nd round
Brampton A’s
2nd in Conf., 2nd in NBL
Lost in 1st round
Ottawa SkyHawks
4th in Conf., 6th in NBL
Lost in Play-in game
Niagara River Lions
4th in Conf., 8th in NBL
* - Projected

Clearly there is work to be done in Niagara. Windsor and Ottawa managed to have solid opening seasons, especially Windsor, considering they had an absolute buzzsaw of a London Lightning team in their division. Ottawa faced a similar situation, playing .500 basketball in a difficult, 5-team division. Brampton (now in Orangeville) had the best season of them all, immediately joining the the top teams in the league, although they've since fallen considerably this season.

The nature of NBL Canada has never been about continuity. Every year there is a new crop of players, and rosters look completely different every single season. Therefore, an expansion team is afforded an excellent opportunity to enter the league, and be competitive from day one.

What this means for Niagara is that the problems run deeper than simply being the new kid on the block. Although they are in a very tough division, the team was simply not performing up to standards. Something had to change, and the only things that can change are the players, or the coach. It is clear ownership opted to remove the coach, not necessarily because the coach was doing poorly, but because it is easier to find one new coach than it is to find a twelve player roster.

With Murray gone, the team can now say they have tried to make a change, and have 21 games left to find out if it was the right call


G - Anthony Anderson (Saint John)
- Player of the Week thanks to a 51-point performance against Orangeville.

G - Dexter Strickland (Moncton)
- Shot efficiently and took care of the ball, put up 23 against Halifax

F - Mike Glover (Halifax)
- Went 12-13 from the field against the Storm, racking up 31 points. The guy has been lights-out from the bench.

F - Brandon Robinson (Windsor)
- "Ol' Reliable" notched 24, 21, & 23 points in Windsor's three games.

C - Chris Commons (Windsor)
- A strong mixture of offence and defence helps solidify Windsor two wins in the week.

Feb. 18 - MON @ HAL, ORG @ SJ, WIN @ LDN
Feb. 19 - WIN @ NIA, ISL @ HAL, ORG @MON
Feb. 20 - LDN @ WIN


- No transactions

- Feb. 19: Activated George Beamon from IR. Placed Josiah Turner on IR (dental surgery).

- Feb. 18: Suspend Kevin Loiselle.

- Feb. 18: Activate Derek Hall from IR. Released Zachary Valleire.

- Relieved Head Coach/GM Ken Murray of his duties. Named Grâce Lokole as Interim Head Coach

- No transactions

Saint John
- Feb. 16: Placed Anthony Stover (right deltoid hematoma) on IR. Signed and activated Modibo Diarra.

- Feb. 18: Signed and activated Rudolphe Joly.
- Feb. 20: Reinstated Bill Jones as head coach. Interim coach Tony Jones is retained as an assistant.
- Feb. 22: Place Ljubisa Vrcelj on IR (back, hip)