Head coach Gareth Murray sees bright future for Caledonia Gladiators
Head coach Gareth Murray is determined to secure a tangible step in his ambition to make Caledonia Gladiators Britain’s biggest basketball club when they compete in Sunday’s BBL Trophy final.
The final against Cheshire Phoenix at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow offers the chance to bring major silverware to Scotland for the first time since the Scottish Rocks won the BBL play-offs 20 years ago.
Doing so would help grow increasing belief that the Gladiators can be a major force in the game following the recent announcement of £20million plans to build a purpose-built arena and a first permanent home.
Scotland’s BBL franchise has been named Edinburgh, Scottish and then Glasgow Rocks before a rebrand at the start of this season. They will move to a temporary home in East Kilbride this summer before owners Steve and Alison Timoney start plans to build a 6,000-seat arena at the same site.
Murray had two earlier spells with the Rocks interspersed with stints in England and France before returning to Scotland in 2016, initially as a player and then player-coach before calling time on his playing career last year.
“We always talked over the years about how important it was to grow basketball across Scotland,” Murray told the PA news agency.
“Now I am the head coach of the team, I have a duty and a voice to help grow the sport.
“I have always said we should be the biggest club in the UK, being the only team in Scotland. It’s great that someone has come with some financial backing to show that’s possible and we can make those dreams reality.”
The 38-year-old added: “I started in 2005-06 with the Glasgow Rocks. There have been different plans, we have moved from Braehead to Kelvin Hall and then the Emirates.
“We need our own facility for the club to grow and be sustainable in the growing market of the British Basketball League.
“We have come together with the women’s team so we are definitely going in the right direction. And with the investment from Steven and Alison Timoney we can have a bigger picture and see where the club can go in the next five, 10, 15 years.
“Before we were very much year to year, we couldn’t really grow too much without our facility. Now we have the ability to grow the whole community of basketball in Scotland.
“We want to have hubs across the whole of Scotland, the more people we have playing basketball, the more opportunity we have for younger people to become professional basketball players.”
Murray, who won more than 60 caps for Great Britain, added: “I want this club to the best and I’m glad I’m in a position where I can help them become the best.
“It’s a huge thing for Caledonia Gladiators to have a purpose-built basketball facility with five training courts and the showpiece 6,000-seat arena. We have aspirations to play in Europe in the next few years, men and women. Could it be the home of British basketball as well?
“We have everything under one roof, the courts for the pathway, the community, the age groups. We want to have one of the best academies in Europe.
“We have everything that we need for the club to grow and be one of the best franchises in the UK.”
Those long-term ambitions will be parked this weekend when the club take part in their first Trophy final for nine years.
“We have a job to do – we want to go and win the Trophy,” said Murray, whose team are fifth in the BBL standings.
“It’s one of the goals we set out halfway through the season. We want to be a top-four team and win the Trophy final.
“We got to the final but now it’s important that we win it.”