O’Reilly is still in love with basketball even as his time with Demons concludes 

O’Reilly is still in love with basketball even as his time with Demons concludes 
Colin O'Reilly, UCC Demons, drives to the basketball. Picture: Larry Cummins.

COLIN O'Reilly was a very busy man last year.

As well as coaching and playing for UCC Demons in the men’s Super League, he completed his FIBA-OUT programme. He was also one of the Irish senior coaching staff under the guidance of Mark Scannell for the FIBA Small Countries Tournament held in the Mardyke Arena.

After this tournament, he then took on a new role as head of the National Academy for Basketball Ireland.

“It has been a busy year alright, but one I enjoyed,” O’Reilly said. “Although it was testing at the times, it was a great experience, and a one I wouldn’t change.

“The National League season finished a few weeks ago and following that I sat down with Demons chairman Micheal O’Leary for a chat.

“I informed him that at the moment that I won’t be I a position to coach the senior team next season.

“To be honest, there is no real particular reason why I can’t do it. It’s a lot of different things really. 

"I follow the same process every summer. I look at what I am currently doing and decide if it’s something I want to continue. In this instance, I think I need a new challenge and I will wait to see what happens in the coming months.”

UCC Demons' Colin O'Reilly and Tralee Warriors' Kieran Donaghy square-off.Picture: David Keane.
UCC Demons' Colin O'Reilly and Tralee Warriors' Kieran Donaghy square-off.Picture: David Keane.

One of the reasons why O’Reilly was so busy over the past 12 months was because he was one of an elite few in Ireland chosen to participate in the FIBA run FIBA-OUT programme.

“The Time-Out program was centred around upskilling and helping prepare players transition to their post-playing careers. There were three aspects to the programme.

“A degree in Leadership and management from Northumbria University was one of these.

“The FIBA manager qualification which is geared towards players moving into management roles in basketball clubs was the second and TALS, which is geared towards developing as mentor/lifestyle advisor for athletes who are currently in dual careers of studying and playing sports or working and playing sports. It is currently being rolled out by GAA and run by English sports.”

After a long period at Demons, both as a player and coach, O’Reilly seems to be suffering from a seven-year itch and may move on, but he certainly has enjoyed his time at the club.

“I had seven great with the club years and led them 12 trophies, so overall, it was a huge success. I got to play with Niall (my brother), who I always thought was the most underrated all-around player in the league throughout the 14 years on and off I played in the league."

Picture: Denis Minihane.
Picture: Denis Minihane.

Only a few years ago they were the dominant force in Irish basketball and were still competitive over the past two seasons despite operating with a far tighter squad.

“We did things throughout the years in Demons that no team has come close to replicating, so I think it’s a period in the club's history that everyone involved should be proud of.

“I will, of course, be always grateful for them taking me on as the Head Coach of the biggest club in the country and it is a club I will continue to give back to moving forward.”

This year the team was tweaked, with last year's All-Star Adrian O'Sullivan moving to Reading, but American Brandon Watts had some high-scoring games.

“Having had huge success previous years gives a good idea at the start of each season of what realistic expectations are based on the talent at your disposal.

“For us, it was a brand new team with numerous players playing in the league for the first time. The goal was to compete every week and give ourselves a chance to win games in the fourth quarter and this was successful in 18 out of 21 games.

“Within that, we won some games we should have lost, and lost some games we could have won. I had to change some of our playing principles within this group."

That included maxmising Watts' pace and skill.

“Our American player Brandon Watts was one of the best players in the league.

“He had a nervous start to this campaign, and after the Maree loss I knew as a coach that I needed to change things up to help him more.

“Then I made Brandon the focal point of our offensive game, and we got the ball in his hands more in games which created more space for myself and the other players.

“It proved successful as his scoring average went up 15 points a game, and also gave us more spacing to find the open players on the floor."

The younger players will benefit from the campaign, though clearly Demons will need to bolster their panel for 2019-'20, which isn't easy with three teams in Division 1: Neptune, Ballincollig and Fr Mathews.

“Overall, the group gave what they had each weekend on a consistent basis which is a hard thing to do in players' first year in the league.

“The fact we beat the top two teams and lost to bottom two shows exactly where we were at during the season,” added Colin. 

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

O’Reilly is due to begin a new FIBA course this year and he is looking forward to that.

“The FECC course is run by FIBA and it is one of the most prestigious coaching courses in the world. It’s run over two years and involves a lot of practical and theory work.

“The coaches running it are all EuroLeague or international level coaches which gives a great insight of how hard it is to qualify for the certification.

“It will also give me a good opportunity to add value to the National Academies here in Ireland.

“With the continuous developments being implemented in the National pathway for players, the academies as they grow will increase in importance, and will hopefully, in time help Ireland replicate the success of the recent Irish U18 women’s team that did so well in Europe on a regular basis.”

O’Reilly is also involved with the Irish academies and here he explains his role.

“I was appointed as head of Irish boys academies this year, along with Martin McGettrick, who looks after the girls' side of things. It’s probably the best decision basketball-wise I made.

“I enjoy going around the country visiting the academies talking and sharing information with the coaches and players.”

So with all that on his plate, will O’Reilly have time to do what he does best, which is to play for another team next season?

“We still have a month of the academies to go where we want to finish off this season successfully while strategising and planning improvements for next year’s academy season.

“After that, conversations will begin about the club season next year, so as always I will listen to the various situations that are out there.

“I’m back in the gym this week to try stay in shape, as when you train for eight months of the year it’s very easy for your fitness to slide, it’s just a habit really.

“On the coaching front, whether it’s men’s, women’s or underage it will be something that has to be a new a new challenge as that’s the only way to grow in coaching.”

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