WHEN you have been the most successful coach in Irish basketball over many years surely there comes a time when retirement could be an option?
Not for UCC Glanmire coach Mark Scannell who this season will once again be at the helm for the Cork club.
Last season Glanmire were decimated when many top stars like Grainne Dwyer and Claire Rockall left the club but Scannell was determined to keep the show on the road.
“We were a little unlucky with Americans who encountered problems getting back in the country and then when we brought in another professional that ended up getting injured at training without playing a game,” said Scannell.
Despite having an inexperienced squad Scannell kept battling and he was delighted with the progress of his young guns.
“There was great camaraderie in the team and some of rookies gained experience that I am hoping that will stand to us for the forthcoming campaign,” added Scannell.
Coach Scannell is very proud of the seven cup and league titles he has led his team to but in his own words his biggest challenge will be resurrecting the glory years back to the club.
This season Glanmire have increased the backroom team as Scannell explained.
“Ronan O’Sullivan is back as my assistant and he has done incredible work with the recruitment of our two Americans and I always trust him in what he does as he is dedicated to the club and with Kenneth Clarke doing the strength and conditioning, the team are in good shape going into the season.”
The Glanmire committee have also been working tirelessly in their bid to relieve the pressure from Scannell.
“Our committee have been outstanding and that’s been another huge plus as all I will be doing is coaching and the worries and stress will be left to people at executive level.”
This season Glanmire have signed two highly-rated Americans in point guard Shirita Parker and post player Tatum Neubert and Scannell is confident they will both be good additions.
“We will have to wait and see but they have both played at a decent level and with our Irish players mixed with experience and youth we will be competitive.”
Scannell is adamant that having professionals with the right attitude is at times more important than their basketball skills.
“What I want my professionals to do is blend in with the team and my job then is ensuring I improve them as players and that’s the way I have always operated.”
The Glanmire chief has coached at the highest level of Irish basketball in the Men’s and Women’s leagues and he has some interesting views on the present state of the sport.
“There was a major scramble among Cork clubs for one or two players that became available over the summer and that to me was a joke as we were talking about rookies.
“The main problem for the women’s game is with having three teams in Cork the standard dilutes but when Claire Rockall left us last season to return to her home club in Galway and you have Amy Waters now departing from Brunell losing players with their quality is not easy to replace.”
The experience in the Glanmire squad include Aine McKenna, Casey Grace, Miriam Loughrey and Marie Breen and Scannell believes their contributions will be invaluable in the coming months.
“I firmly believe the Women’s Super League should be the elite championship and I do feel standards have dropped in recent years and we all have to look at ourselves with coaches and clubs trying to stop this decline.”
Many of the coaches in the Super League are finding it hard to keep players happy with court time and Scannell believes he may adapt a different plan in for the coming campaign.
“The present players just want to play and I have noticed they are too many out there whose priority is just getting court time and not worrying whether the team win or lose once they have participated.
“I don’t understand that as I remember playing with decent sides with great players and you basically abided your time and waited your opportunity to get in the side with hard work the number one priority.”
On the other side of the coin Scannell does understand the frustrations.
“We now live in a different society with young girls having so much going on in their lives and travelling around the country getting restricted court times can be tough to take.
“Basketball is a tough sport to share 40 minutes as ideally you can only get eight or nine players in key games and that creates problems and my philosophy will be to talk to my players before the season kicks off and tell them individually where there at and how they can improve.
“Coaches have a lot to deal with and the bottom line is that parents shouldn’t be getting involved at Super League level in trying to make a case for their daughters court time and to be honest I will not tolerate interference.”
As Glanmire get ready to travel to play Maree next weekend Scannell is promising a huge improvement for the coming season.
“I was never used to be second best and my goal along with the players and coaching staff will be to get the team back in the mix for silverware and with a bit of luck I have a feeling we are heading in the right direction.”