UWIC coach Jennings prepares for move to Canada
By Dave Ryan
As he prepares to move to Canada to become head coach of the University of Calgary, UWIC Archers’ coach Damian Jennings admits it will be tough to say goodbye to British basketball.
“It is sad to say goodbye to UWIC Archers and Great Britain,” admitted Jennings, “but two years ago I decided I wanted to coach full-time so have been reviewing several overseas options as there simply aren’t many full-time coaching jobs in basketball in the UK that can match the situation I was in.
“I really wanted to finish the cycle with the GB squad group we had recruited at UWIC given their commitment to our Archers Academy and perhaps we all just felt 2011-12 was the most important year of preparation so I turned down previous calls to leave for full-time coaching until the role at the University of Calgary fortuitously went to interview after the season had finished.”
Jennings leaves the Cardiff university with a record of success behind him: “The Archers programme has made gigantic steps since 2006 from our days mid-table in EBL Division Two to winning over 35 medals/trophies in the EBL and BUCS combined.
“Making five successive BUCS finals with three back-to-back championships along route, accumulating a 46-game unbeaten run, whilst achieving the EBL One Playoff title within three seasons of being promoted makes me incredibly proud of all the efforts of those that supported our ambition.
“Over six years we have not just become an apprenticeship hub for GB talent but have helped nurture over 30 international basketball players representing six different countries!
“As for the EBL’s contribution to the future it is about establishing an appropriate, sustainable funding structure; development focused clubs and an investment in the improvement of coaching so that the EBL and the UK can be a genuine alternative to the USA system for our most talented players and a genuine vocation-based option for our aspiring coaches - I would like to think for at least six years we tried to achieve these ambitions in our business model at the Archers but unfortunately a sustainable funding stream became the glass ceiling.”
GB women’s assistant Jennings believes that the future of team is in safe hands. Britain failed to get a win in their five games at the Olympics, but produced some excellent performances that drew praise throughout the sport, and went agonisingly close to beating silver medallists France.
“The Olympics was obviously an excellent experience” said Jennings.” To be more specific the whole preparation phase, given that we were together since May 6th was an invaluable experience and journey.
“The future for Team GB and British basketball looks bright with Temi [Fagbenle] making the step-up to senior level from the Under 20s we took into Division A last summer and three of the Futures players making the final Olympic 12 - with Azania Stewart and Jo Leedham also eligible last year for the World University Games side we took to China - so again it just highlights that the youthful age, yet experience, of at least half of the Olympic 12 displays a future with prospects.”
Jennings guided the GB Under 20 team to promotion in 2010, and they exceeded all expectations last summer with an eighth place finish in their Division A debut. Jennings also coached the World Student Games team in China with some encouraging results.