ST. JOHN’S, NL – His voice is that of a late night DJ on a radio station with an easy listening format, but everything else about him tells you that Jerry Williams is a basketball man.
He’s 6-5 years old, with long limbs and big hands, and even in a suit and dress shoes, and more than a decade out of his time as a player, the 42-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla. , still looks like he belongs on a court like the one set up at Mile One Center in St. John’s on Wednesday for the official launch of the new American Basketball Association team that will play from the facility from the End of november.
Williams is tasked with building the Newfoundland Rogues, whose name and logo were revealed on Wednesday. This event also saw the introduction of Williams as the Rogues’ first head coach, and although he is new to St. John’s, he is not new to the ABA; Williams played in the league before coaching the Jacksonville Giants, who are five-time defending league champions. After starting as an assistant, he took over Jacksonville’s top job in 2016, leading the Giants to the title every year except 2020, when the ABA season was called off by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Giants first entered the league in 2010 and enjoyed almost immediate success, winning their first ABA crown in 2012, and six of eight following.
Williams, who played college ball at Cumberland College in Ky., Was there from the start. After completing a professional playing career that saw him in Great Britain, France and Italy and then at the ABA, he joined the team of Giants’ very first head coach, Kevin Waters.
Williams says the prospect of being part of the same type of organizational development with the Rogues was one of the reasons he left Florida for Newfoundland.
“They (the Giants) started out like that,” Williams said, pointing to the pitfalls that came with Wednesday’s media session, “but they worked hard, starting from scratch, they stayed true and they made a excellent work.
“That’s what we’re going to do here.
The Giants have been the class of a league whose identity is difficult to determine. No one seems to know exactly how many teams there are in the ABA – depending on the time of year, the number ranges from 150 to 200; many clubs describe themselves as semi-professionals, with only weekend hours to allow players to work Monday through Friday; and the league’s official website is a mess, with no rankings, no stats, no schedules and an outdated list of member clubs. About half of the teams listed do not have online connections and of those that do, many links lead to dead ends, others lead to sites that have not been updated for years and d Others refer you to web pages telling you the domain name is for sale.
Williams doesn’t disagree that the ABA offers different levels of talent and team operations, but says the Rogues will be the best.
“There are different levels at (the ABA), but trust me, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t leave a situation with the best team, the best organization in the league, to come here if I didn’t think so. that it was going to work and they weren’t doing it well, ”Williams said.
“I know, coming from Jacksonville, it all starts with the ownership pledge and that’s what I believe we have here.”
The Rogues are owned by 2001 Investments, headed by Tony Kenny. He says he and his partners Bill Kennedy and John Fisher reached out to ABA President and CEO Joe Newman to help him find a coach.
“We obviously wanted someone who had experience managing a team, so we were looking to be pointed in the right direction,” Kenny said. “Next thing you know, Jerry contacts us, and I’m like ‘Oh my god, that’s perfect.'”
The Rogues will have a 30-game schedule in their first season – all 30 games being played at Mile One – starting with a Nov. 27 clash against the Eagles in Elmira, New York.
In many cases, ABA schedules are often the result of team-to-team discussions and Williams says the best clubs often gravitate towards each other when it comes to filling out dance cards.
“Yes, there are teams that play in high school gyms and YMCAs, but there are teams that play in arenas like this,” he said. “Take (the Giants). We have traveled all over the country to face the best teams. This is what we wanted for our fans and for ourselves because it helped us prepare for the playoffs.
“There’s no point playing against, in quotes, ‘bad’ teams just to get you into the playoffs with a good record, but don’t be ready.”
Kenny says that kind of self-scheduling is “part of the beauty of this league.”
“You have 200 teams in this league, and like in any league you have the good, the bad and the ugly, but although there is a framework (of programming), we basically have to choose the teams ( the Rogues will play). “
Williams suggests fans will like the ABA game, whose rule changes include 3D play, which rewards good defense – an extra point is added to a scoring game if it started with a turnover in the zone. back.
“It’s a different kind of basketball: higher scores, more offensive, more in a hurry. It’s entertaining, ”he said.
Of course, a lot will depend on the Rogues list. At the last word, there were eight signed players in what will be a group of 12 players, the majority of which will be players from the American university ranks but who have already had some professional experience.
“Some have played in this league, but a lot of them have been abroad,” said Williams, who expects the whole team to meet in St. John’s in early November.
“They are going to be good. I have talented guys coming in and I think people here will be very surprised at the level of talent. I know I am excited.
He says there will be no problem filling vacancies in programming.
“At first when I started (with the Rogues), I was the one chasing (the players). Now with the rumor, the players are chasing me. My phone keeps ringing. And after this press conference, it’s going to be even crazier.
“But a good kind of fool.”