Can the Magic continue?
Joe Salerno sure thinks so!
The mastermind behind the Moncton Magic’s climb to the pinnacle of the NBL Canada tried to enjoy the off-season as much as he could, but the work of an architect and coach is truly never done.
“I certainly tried to enjoy a little bit more of an off season for the first month or so after the finals there in May, but the job really never ends,” confessed Salerno.
“I was back on the road probably a month after starting to kind of build and construct this year’s team.”
It’s been a busy, but very successful off-season for the reigning NBL of Canada Coach of the Year.
“A big priority for me was to resign a core group of guys from last years team with all the success we had,” Salerno said.
The organization were able to lock up seven players from last years squad, which includes four starters and their all important sixth man.
“The five guys that aren’t returning this year all signed professional contracts in five different countries,” Salerno said proudly.
“It’s been a great off season, but I think we have put ourselves in a good position to comeback strong this year.”
Obviously, losing five members of any championship team is a tough pill to swallow, nevertheless Salerno sees it differently.
“When a player moves on from the Magic and signs a professional deal, that’s something that they had set out to do it’s really a win-win for everybody.”
“For that player continuing to check off goals and meet their aspirations and then of course from us it’s a great recruiting tool to say ‘hey Trey Kell signed in the Asian League this coming summer’ to tell new players that it really does entice them to come to Moncton and that they are going to be in a good position to potentially advice their career.”
“I do think last year we really set the bar high, we truly established ourselves as the flag ship model for the NBL of Canada when it comes to a place that players want to play because they are going to be well taken care of and that we are going to provide them the resources professional athletes need which is really important for these guys.”
Salerno’s recruiting and coaching philosophy is really second to none.
From hours of video study, to recruitment, to practice, to in-game coaching tactics, and tremendous defensive schemes there’s no question Joe Salerno is the best coach in the NBL of Canada.
So how important is character to “the architect” when recruiting and building a team and is the Magic Coach concerned about team chemistry?
“Both,” Salerno said without hesitation.
“I think you have to have good character to work into good chemistry.”
“For me we really put together the framework of what a good team should look like, and what a successful team in the NBL Canada would consists of, both from a physical standpoint on the floor and a chemistry standpoint in the locker room.”
Salerno has the luxury of having the core group already in place.
“Knowing those players and their character and expectations, it’s almost been easier this year to be able to find similar players to fill the holes this year and kind of plug in those new guys.”
Easier, perhaps, but still a very daunting task no less.
The hours of research behind the scenes are endless for Salerno and his staff.
“A lot of research and work goes into it,” admitted Salerno.
“Obviously, finding the talent to begin with and then following up on that player and doing a lot of homework like film study, to reference checks and calling former college coaches and agents.”
“It’s really about finding what you think the best puzzle piece is to fit what you already have and what your needs are,” explained Salerno.
So how excited is Salerno at the prospects of a possible repeat?
“I’m extremely excited, I think we will have a very competitive team again this year, we established ourselves last year, we have set expectations and our returning guys understand what those expectations are so coming into this season knowing we have players that understand what it takes to win a championship is really exciting.”
How will Salerno motivate and push the core of the team, which is sometimes very difficult to do coming off a season with so much success.
“That’s something that has been on my mind a lot,” confessed Salerno.
“It’s uncharted territory for me, it’s the first time in my career defending a championship so how I am going to approach our guys in Training Camp with so many returning players, I think it’s stressing from day one not being satisfied and last year was last year.”
Salerno is optimistic that the core group has gotten a taste of what winning a championship is all about, but his message is very clear.
How badly do you want that feeling again?
“I think a lot of our guys will be motivated right from the get go to repeat. There’s only been a couple of teams to do that in our league.”
“We want to establish something special for years to come,” confessed Salerno.
Salerno believes the competition within will also be a motivating factor for the returning players.
“We have brought in some really good new young talent and those guys are going to be fighting for five potentially open roster spots.”
“I think that will get those competitive juices flowing from day one and kick start our returning guys.”
“It’s tougher to repeat than to win a championship so we are going to accept that as a challenge from the start.”
Salerno is eager to get things started, the organization is looking to finalize it’s Training Camp Roster and get a few more players under contract, but the first day of camp will be on November 14.
“I’m very proud of the preseason schedule that we have established this year,” Salerno said.
“With the league moving to a later start date for the regular season, that being Boxing Day, we wanted to still provide basketball for the City of Moncton in mid November and early December.”
“We want to try to continue ride that momentum from our championship last year and I think there’s a desire right now in Moncton.”
November 19th will be a night that most fans have circled on their calendars.
The Magic will play an intrasquad game at Crandall University. “The first opportunity for the fans to see us in action and all the new faces will be at Crandall with all the proceeds from the game going to the University’s Athletes Programs,” Salerno said proudly.
Can the Magic continue?
You better believe it!