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Brisbane Bullets turmoil: Greg Vanderjagt says off-court issues as … – Code

NBL owner Larry Kestelman still has a financial slice in the Brisbane Bullets but, as internal drama unfolds, Matt Logue reveals he has no say on the management front.
It’s a shame the NBL doesn’t have managerial rights at the Brisbane Bullets because someone needs to step in and sort out the club’s current situation that has been described by insiders as an “absolute mess.”
A power struggle in the front office has emerged as a key factor in the Bullets’ present turmoil as the club searches for a third coach in less than a month.
Club legend Sam Mackinnon had player backing to be the club’s coach, but he has reverted back to his general manager of basketball role after just four games because he couldn’t agree on the terms after being offered the coaching role for the rest of the season.
The Brisbane Bullets are searching for a third coach in less than four weeks.
How has it got to this point?@MickRandallHS & @mattlogue7 on the internal power struggle that’s left the club in turmoil: https://t.co/cHcJLXcXyj
It’s understood Mackinnon wanted conditions inserted in his deal as coach, including more control, but the requests were denied by the club. He was also told he would have to relinquish the GM of basketball role to become coach, which he refused.
The relationship between Mackinnon and chief executive officer Peter McLennan has been described as “tense” and in some quarters “untenable.”
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Mackinnon will return to his GM of basketball role, but there is a belief that he didn’t have the power to fulfil this job effectively.
The drama has left the playing group incredibly frustrated, a delicate situation with just two players – Aron Baynes and Nathan Sobey – contracted beyond this season.
League owner Larry Kestelman still has a financial slice in the franchise, but the Logue Down has been told he has no say on the management front.
However, Kestelman recently weighed in on the future of the Bullets’ current home venue, Nissan Arena, which only has a capacity of 5000 people.
“The league, the clubs and the budgets are growing, so that venue is quite frankly too small,” Kestelman said.
“There will be Brisbane Live as part of the 2032 Olympics, so when that happens it will hopefully be the long-term home and it will give them the space and capacity to be amazing.”
—Matthew McInerney
Bullets interim coach Greg Vanderjagt has described the club’s off-court distractions as “frustrating” after watching Brisbane take it to NBL finals fancies Cairns Taipans.
The Bullets led early before the Taipans finally awoke, but rallied to come within six points of an upset in the final term before Cairns pulled away to an 85-76 win.
Minutes after the end of his first game in charge of an NBL team, Vanderjagt – the former Townsville Crocs big man who was elevated to Bullets’ interim coach earlier this week – addressed the off-court circus.
The Bullets started the season with James Duncan as head coach, but cut ties after a slow start to the campaign.
Brisbane’s GM of Basketball Sam Mackinnon stepped into the role in an interim capacity, guiding to the team through a few improved performances before the axe fell this week.
Reports have linked Todd Purves to the role moving forward, but assistant coach Vanderjagt was elevated to the interim lead position earlier this week.
And after fulltime at the Cairns Convention Centre, Vanderjagt went on the front foot.
“Everyone’s got a lot of questions about what’s happened over the past 24-48 hours and I will address that first,” he said.
“From a club perspective, from a team perspective, what’s happened has happened. All I want to talk about is the playing group.
“That’s the staff’s concern, and my concern is for Sobes (captain Nathan Sobey) and the rest of the group, is their welfare and wellbeing.
“The distractions are frustrating, there’s no doubt about that for the group.
“They’ve been through a lot over the course of the season, over the course of the past couple of seasons going back to 2021 when I first became involved in this thing. With the Covid season and delays last season … the playing group has been through a lot.
“The club has made some decisions over the past couple of weeks the club is entitled to make.
“What we need to moving forward is compete and play for each other, like this group did tonight.
“We need to find consistency, in terms of what we do off the court as an organisation, there will be a lot of questions about what’s happened but right now they’re questions for our CEO and the ownership group. They’re managing the situation as it keeps unfolding.
“From what I understand there’s things in process. I don’t know when those things will come to a close and a decision is going to be made – that’s a question for the CEO.
“My focus is on the playing group and getting this group ready to compete in Adelaide on Saturday night against a talented basketball team.”
Vanderjagt was proud of the way the playing group rallied.
They welcomed new import Andrew White II, who scored nine points in 18 minutes of week despite arriving in the country little more than 48 hours ago.
Boomers big man Aron Baynes topscored for the Bullets with 17 points in the Mareeba product’s first game in Cairns since before he left for the NBA.
Sobey was off-target but still managed 13 points, six rebounds, seven assists and five steals in a tough performance by the on-court general.
—Michael Randall and Matt Logue
A power struggle in the Brisbane front office has emerged as a key factor in the Bullets’ present turmoil as the club searches for a third coach in less than a month.
Sam Mackinnon took over the team following the sacking of James Duncan but, after just four games as interim, has reverted back to the club’s general manager of basketball role and assistant Greg Vanderjagt will coach the team until a replacement arrives.
Bullets players were at the airport ahead of a trip to Cairns for a Wednesday-night clash when news filtered through of Mackinnon’s role reversal — the second coaching change in less than three weeks — but none were consulted by the club.
It’s understood Mackinnon was offered the job for the rest of the season but made the decision to instead remain as the club’s GM.
The relationship between Mackinnon, a legend of the club, and chief executive officer Peter McLennan has been described as “untenable”.
Amid a wretched 4-9 record, it has emerged a power struggle between the pair has been a big factor in the Bullets’ myriad issues.
McLennan comes from a football background as the former CEO of Brisbane Roar, while Mackinnon – the league’s 2007 MVP who led the club to the title that same season – was charged with assembling the current team.
The Bullets’ ownership group, which includes former NBA sharpshooter Kevin Martin, is based overseas, which makes it difficult to get a full picture of what is happening on the ground.
A source bluntly described the unfolding situation in Brisbane as a “s**t show.”
Bullets legend Derek Rucker said he was surprised to hear that Mackinnon would not see out the season as coach.
“The Bullets looked like they had chemistry and the players were buying in under Sam,” Rucker said.
The Bullets are understood to be in talks with relative unknown Todd Purves, who has had successful stints in Indonesia and Macau, to assume the vacant coaching mantle.
It comes as the club’s highest profile star Baynes gave Mackinnon a ringing endorsement.
“Sam’s got that something extra in terms of he was the best player in the NBL for a few years when he was playing, so it’s always good to have a guy like that on the sideline, on your team in your ear,” Baynes said.
“We’ve all got to learn from him. He sees the game differently to us all.
“He was a super-competitive guy when he was playing and it’s no different the way he has been coaching, so it’s fun to be around.”
It also comes in the wake of NBL legend Shane Heal, on this week’s The Basketball Show, describing the culture at the Bullets as “toxic”.
Heal wanted Mackinnon to put all his eggs in the head coaching role because he was hearing that he was on the outer moving forward.
When contacted by News Corp, Mackinnon directed inquiries to the club’s communications department.
The Bullets have been contacted for comment but are yet to respond. Asked on Monday about the state of their coaching situation, a spokeswoman said “the club will announce the head coach in due course.”
Originally published as Inside the power struggle at the Brisbane Bullets
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