I have been a Tigers supporter since 1992, when I was 11 and discovered the game of basketball. I couldn’t count the number of games I’ve been to, the amount of money I’ve spent on merchandise and memberships, or the vocal chords I’ve damaged shouting my support in the years since. The Tigers have been a massive part of my life for almost as long as I can remember.
The club I adopted and fell in love with was built on a foundation of loyalty and stability. I grew up with Gaze, Copeland, Bradtke, Gordon and Giddey. These are guys who were there year in, year out and bled red, black and yellow. They became like family, and gave the “family club” its soul. It was that sense of solidity and loyalty that endeared the club to me. The fact that so many players from that era have remained around the club speaks volumes.
Things have changed since those days in the 90s. Basketball’s popularity is not what it once was, the business model has changed, competitive pressures have intensified and the nature of recruiting has changed. But none of those changes are a reason, or an excuse, for the club’s core values – the things that make the club special – to be abandoned.
Seamus, you’ve done great things for this club. You’ve steered it through an incredibly tumultuous period, and your dedication and passion have ensured that the club has survived when many others have not. Every Tigers fan should be thankful for that, and I believe most are. None of us have agreed with everything you have done (I hated the Worthington signing, for instance), but for the most part your decisions have been at worst defensible, and at best absolutely correct. I have repeatedly defended and supported your decisions when many others have not. The Westover decision, the releasing of Homicide, the Mills signing, all decisions which have been pilloried in many quarters, were in my eyes good moves.
I fear, though, that you are now a destabilising influence on my club.
None of us know what happens behind closed doors. But from outside, Ayinde Ubaka appeared to be a person who was popular within the club and a great guy off the court. His play, while not always stellar, was solid and occasionally spectacular. He was fun to watch, and was far from being the source of any problems the club finds itself in. And now, with a stroke of the pen and no doubt a few terse and poorly chosen words, he is gone. And he is gone, apparently, based on a decision that was yours and yours alone.
When the club signed so many players on multi-year deals in the off-season I felt like we were building something – hoping for immediate success but being prepared to build if that success did not come in season 11/12. My dismay at our faltering performances was tempered by the knowledge that we had a solid core with 10 player points to play with in the off season, surely a sign of great things to come. That’s what makes this move so shocking. To arbitrarily cut a player of such quality and popularity when the future holds so much promise portrays a complete lack of long-term vision at a club where long-term vision has always been at the forefront.
I now worry for my club with you at the helm, Seamus. I worry that fans will become disheartened after losing one too many of their heroes. I worry that players will think twice about coming to the club as it builds a cavalier reputation for sacking them at a moment’s notice and that current players will be forever watching their backs rather than focusing on the game. And more than anything, I worry that the club I love because it always stood for something important will one day soon stand for nothing at all.
You have done so much for the club, Seamus, and I thank you for it all. Perhaps now, the biggest gift you could give the Tigers is to step away from the basketball side of the club and leave the decisions to those more qualified than yourself. Regardless of the formal ownership structure this club belongs to us, the fans. It is not yours. We were here before you took over, and we will be here after you leave. It is time to hand over the reins to someone who understands that.