Levett Essex Leopards confirm Baker as coach for 2017-18
PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 April 2017
© 2013 Emma Marshall
Big Cats impressed by impact made in end-of-season spell
Levett Essex Leopards have announced that Thomas Baker will remain as the club’s coach for the 2017/18 season.
The 27-year-old play-caller was thrown in at the deep end when he took over the job with four games remaining.
And although three heart-wrenching defeats in four games, along with a thrilling double overtime win at Worthing, saw the Big Cats suffer relegation, their board of directors had no hesitation in handing him the job for next season.
“We’ve been really impressed with how Tom handled a difficult situation,” said general manager Dave Ryan.
“To come in with four games to go when we were a terrible losing streak and make such a positive difference left us in no doubt that he was the right man for the job.
“He commanded respect from the players but also gave them a chance to express themselves. The team spirit in those last few games was greatly improved and they showed a lot of guts to get the win at Worthing after the heartbreak of relegation in Lancashire.
“We now have a long summer ahead of us to build a team that will bounce straight back and bring silverware to the Leopards.
“Tom’s appointment strengthens our links with Oaklands Academy and shows the benefits of the two organisations working together.”
Baker played basketball at East Durham College before moving into coaching in 2009, and joined Oaklands Basketball Academy as Performance Analyst/Academy Coach in 2012.
He graduated from University of Hertfordshire in 2012 and was Performance Analyst of England under-18 women’s team between 2012-2015. He has also been regional East under-15 and under-17 head coach since 2013.
Michael Ball, Oaklands’ Director of Basketball, is delighted that Baker will coach the Leopards during 2017/18, adding: “I could see that Thomas truly enjoyed the last four games of this season and that the players and fans responded positively to his approach.
“I know that he is going to be looking at an exciting mix of young talent together with some experienced players.
“It is really positive that a young English coach is getting this opportunity and that more of our performance players at Oaklands College basketball academy are going to get the chance to be part of the future of the Leopards.”
Baker is raring to go in his new job and said: “It’s a great feeling for me right now. I thoroughly enjoyed the four games I had at the end of this season with Leopards, and I felt like even though we didn’t get the results we needed that we are still capable of competing at the Division One level.
“It was a great experience to see what basketball is like in Division One and having been involved in national teams previously I was no stranger to scouting and the detail that must go into preparation before these games.
“The feeling at the end of the season was we all wanted more games together so to know that I will be coming back next year is great.
“Preparation for next season starts now. It is important we are all aware of the task ahead and whilst I feel we can get promoted straight away back to Division One, no one is going to come out and roll over next season, so we must have a good off-season and hit the ground running in pre-season and be ready to come together and compete in every single game.
“Players must be ready to be held accountable to the decisions they make and also we must all work together collectively to continue to improve each and every game.
“The team behind the scenes at Leopards have done an outstanding job building a fantastic team and matchday environment over a number of years now and being a highly ambitious coach I can’t wait to carry on that work.
“It is going to be a pleasure to lead the team during next year in Division Two and I am confident we will be back where we belong in no time.
“I want to help the club bring back performances that will excite the fans and continue to raise the profile of what is already a well-established club in the British game.”
There is one more chance to watch Leopards under their new coach when Oaklands Wolves are the visitors to the Brentwood Centre on Sunday April 9.
There are still a few places left on the pre-game coaching clinic (2-3.30pm), which can be booked via the club’s website leopardsbasketball.co.uk.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Romford Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.