Trahair returns tasked with lifting Magic back up
AARON Trahair has returned to the Mandurah Magic this time as a coach and with a new facility to play and train out of, a vastly retooled playing squad and returns of Andrew Bowman and Taylor Mullenax he is looking forward to the 2017 SBL season.
Trahair, a former NBL veteran of 14 seasons and championship winner who finished his playing career in the SBL firstly with the Rockingham Flames and then Mandurah, received his first taste of life as a head coach in the league last season with the Geraldton Buccaneers.
Despite the travel component, Trahair couldn’t have enjoyed that experience any more with the Buccs. The result was a supremely talented team making the semi finals and only just coming up short against the eventual champion Cockburn Cougars.
But Trahair wanted to be settled back closer to home and when the job coaching the Magic in the men's SBL came up, he saw that as a perfect fit. Six months on he is preparing for his first game in charge on Saturday night against the Willetton Tigers at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
Trahair's job is to try and rebuild the Magic into a competitive unit also after they won just five games in 2016 while not having a home venue and hosting games in Rockingham.
That is one problem fixed in 2017 following the redevelopment of Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre, but Trahair also likes the playing squad he's been able to put together.
Import Ricky Kreklow is on board, Mullenax is back from injury and Bowman from the Flames while Chad Simpson and Fletcher Klasztorny are two young players he is keen to see develop while Tom Remmerswaal, Daniel Munday and Jarrad Jackson can still make their mark.
Trahair is looking forward to what the season holds with the club where his playing career ended.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge in a completely different way than what I experienced last year. It was pretty tough for the club last year for a number of reasons," Trahair said.
"Obviously there were the on-court struggles the team had and that wasn’t helped playing the home games out of Rockingham with the new stadium being built.
"From all accounts it wasn’t the most enjoyable year for those involved, but in saying that I've come into a really good situation and I'm looking forward to it because overall it's a really young group.
"There's a lot of promise there and a lot of growth to be had, but that's exciting and there's a good feeling down here in Mandurah."
Trahair has noticed an influx of players just wanting to be involved at the Magic and that can only turn into a positive both at SBL and D-League level.
"We are going to a great new stadium so there's a bit of buzz around the town and there are a lot of guys back involved at the club that haven’t been around for a couple of years. Whether that's just coincidence with myself getting back or the new stadium, it's always a positive outcome," he said.
"I'm really excited about the season ahead and for the first time in as long as I've been involved with the club we've got a good situation with too many players turning up that we have to try and fit into the SBL or even D-League side. The number of guys wanting to get involved with the club is at an all-time high and that's a good problem to have."
It's no secret that a lot of Mandurah's fortunes in 2017 will revolve around the sort of production that import Kreklow can provide.
Following his college career at Creighton, Kreklow began his professional career in Germany where he most recently played with the Bayer Giants. Trahair is excited by what the 6'7 swingman can provide.
"Ricky is a good player, he really is. He's got good size about him and he's a good athlete, and he can pretty much play inside and out offensively, and defensively he is that long, athletic guy I was looking for who can play multiple positions," Trahair said.
"We do have a lot of young guys and with youth there will be a lot of ups and downs, so Rick will be asked to do a lot of things and play a lot of positions, but I think he's more than capable. He's a good bloke off the court as well so I'm excited with what he brings."
Trahair and the club's plan is to bring in a second import, but that won't happen in time for Round 1.
"We are planning on going with two and we've had a few dramas trying to get the second one, but that is our plan," he said.
"I've had three or four agree and then things have broken down after that, but that's the joys of it all I guess. We are looking to get the second one out but we won't announce anything officially until we know it's a done deal. Hopefully it does happen in the near future."
Another player who will be like a new recruit for the Magic is Mullenax with the prolific and naturalised big man restricted to 13 games last year. Trahair doesn’t expect a lot of out of him early but is sure he will quickly get going.
"Mully took a bit of persuading to actually come back and play at all, and I had to tell him that he had to get back into the gym to lose a few kilos around the waist to be perfectly honest. I told him you don’t want to be bigger than the coach," he said.
"That has been a bit of an on-going process, but I'm really happy he's back involved. He is a great guy to have around the club and he's been here a number of years now so he knows the place back to front. All the guys really love having him around and respect what he does on and off the court.
"It's great that he's agreed to play again and the fact that he can play as an Australian is an added bonus. He may take a little bit of time to get into it but I'm confident as the season goes on he'll get better and better."
While the Magic will rely heavily on Kreklow and Mullenax to provide big numbers and Bowman and Remmerswaal to be leaders, it's the next crop of players that Trahair is looking towards.
"I think Chad Simpson will have a good year for us. He has been one of those guys who has always had that talent tick next to his name and the potential, and I'm expecting him to step up in a big way this season," Trahair said.
"Fletcher Klasztorny has come back from 12 months of playing footy and he is another kid who is still learning a lot, but physically he is a big kid and a good athlete who really gets after it.
"They are two guys who I'm excited to see develop but we do have another half-dozen young kids popping up who might grab their opportunities if they keep improving. Chuck in a couple of old heads like Tommy Remmerswaal and Andrew Bowman, and we have a good mix."
To get Trahair excited about something does take a fair bit, but the new facility in Mandurah is something that he is genuinely looking forward to having use of for both training and game night after the years of what the home team and visitors had to experience.
"It's great to have a new facility. I'm not one to get too excited over many things, but it's really good. There are the two brand new courts and one of those will be the Showcourt," he said.
"Obviously I haven’t seen it set up as it will be on a game night, but from all accounts there will be a nice atmosphere there and the best thing is that the club have brand new offices and we'll have a brand new entrance that will be just open on game nights. The club will have the chance to run that on their own for the first time.
"It's nice to have some actual changerooms there to call home and we don't have just a little room with makeshift walls. I'm sure the visiting teams will also appreciate having their own changeroom instead of the aerobics room or crèche. There's a lot of excitement around the town and club about getting into the new stadium."
Reflecting on his first year as a senior coach with the Buccs, Trahair has nothing but positive memories of the experience and would have been happy to keep going if it was closer to home.
"I really enjoyed the whole experience of coaching Geraldton. It was great for my evolvement as a coach even though it was always a challenge with the geographical side of things and having a young daughter still in Perth," Trahair said.
"Ultimately that was the biggest reason why I decided to move back to Perth, but I really enjoyed my time in Geraldton and I can't thank that club enough for giving me the opportunity. It's always difficult to get that first coaching gig irrespective if you've played or not, so a big thanks to the Buccs for that.
"It was a combination of myself and the team evolving as the season went on where we got to the semis and lost two pretty tight games to the eventual winners. We put ourselves in a winning position in both those games but unfortunately didn’t quite get over the line. I've had a chance to look back now and I was pretty content with the way I did things and the way the team went even though we would have liked to go further."
Photo by Vikki Hile