Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders have agreed improved terms with head coach Rob Paternostro for the 2010/11 season.
The move comes as little surprise after the play-caller delivered back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in the club’s history.
Riders’ Chairman Mark Ellis said, “Rob has done a great job for the club, particularly this season when the team has over-performed. He brings a great passion to his role and that obviously rubs off in a very positive way on the players. Recruitment is key to success in the BBL and this is an area which Rob has quickly got to grips with and has done exceptionally well. We feel the playing side of the club is in exceptionally good hands with Rob and thus doing whatever we can to keep him was really a no-brainer.”
And recruitment is the main concern for Paternostro now, with his first priority to hang on to as many of his stars as he can.
“The first part of the recruitment process is to talk to the guys we already have,” he said. “On reflection you have to be pleased with the season we had and the best part from my perspective was the way we finished the season.
“The run we went on when everyone was trying to jockey for position and trying to stabilise themselves as a play-off team put us in overdrive and made sure that we were going to be in a healthy position. Our young guys improved as the year went on. Overall it was a positive season and it’s exciting to think where we can go.”
As he found last summer, though, a successful season in Leicester can bring a player to the attention of not only the wealthier sides in the BBL, but also the cash-rich continental clubs.
Jason Johnson, who led the Riders in scoring and was the best rebounder in the BBL, is just one of the players that Paternostro is keen to hang on to. But as well as being named as one of the top five players by the BBL, he was crowned the league’s best player, the best import and the best forward by the world-renowned basketball website Eurobasket.com.
“When I signed Jason last year, I knew he was capable of putting up the sort of numbers he did, so it was no surprise to me that others recognise that too. I’ve spoken to him about next year and he enjoyed his time in Leicester, so we are hopeful, but obviously there are financial constraints that we have to live in.
“From my perspective I want to bring back as many of the players as possible, because I think to be successful in this league you need that base of consistency, but we are realistic about where we are in the world so we will have to wait and see.”
Whilst the current squad is his first choice, Paternostro is also looking elsewhere for options should he not be able to hang on to his stars.
“You are always looking, always aware of what is out there. I’m not setting any time limits on players, but at the same time I need to do what is best for the Leicester Riders. At the end of the day we won 20-plus games this season, so why would we want to change things? But you have to be prepared for all possibilities, so I’ve always got my eye on several different options.”
There is no doubt that Paternostro knows a good player when he sees one, as the signings of Tommy Swanson, Phil Missere, Bradd Wierzbicki and Johnson, to name just four, have proven. But keeping hold of those stars in the face of stiff competition is a more difficult task.
Whatever the summer holds, the performance of the Riders over the last two seasons has made them a more attractive proposition than they were when Paternostro joined.
He concluded, “Having a couple of twenty-win seasons in a row puts us in a nice position. People now expect us to be competing with the best in the BBL, which makes us a nice proposition and is testament to the progress we’ve made over the last 24 months, both on and off the court.
“We’ve come an awfully long way, but everyone at the club wants to continue that progress, so it will be an interesting summer. I’m hopeful that next year’s team will have that base that we need and we can continue in our growth on and off the court.”