AS he stands on the verge of a fifth BBL title in seven years, Fab Flournoy admits this one would be the sweetest of the lot.
Written off at various points this season and criticised for their year without silverware, the Newcastle Eagles had questions to answer as they began this season.
But the biggest one of the lot is whether Flournoy and Charles Smith were past it, with the player-coach having turned 40 this year and still going strong.
Even at the turn of the year many were uncertain if Flournoy’s gifted but inexperienced side had what it takes to clinch one of the closest-fought title races in the history of British basketball.
But Flournoy’s men have prevailed in a series of nail-biting Friday night clashes and now only have to beat the BBL’s bottom two teams this weekend to return the league title to the North East. He says: “This will be one of the sweetest titles (we’ve won), no doubt.
“It will definitely be up there and it will be the most refreshing and rewarding that we have won yet.
“I look at it as coming off a season where we didn’t win anything but more than that, this year everyone has got better. It has been competitive so there would be satisfaction from that perspective too.
“I think I felt it this season more than most because my age and to a degree Charles Smith’s age have been brought up by people this season. Our age always came into it when people were discussing the Eagles.
“To be honest I’m tired of people talking about how old we are and saying that we can’t go on forever.
“People say that we can’t do it forever and I appreciate why they ask that question but we will know when it is time to give up.
“The funny thing is that people have been asking that same set of questions since 2008 and we’re in 2014 and still able to play.”
Flournoy accepts that the Eagles’ dominance of the BBL has created some scepticism about them as a club and also led to some people willing their era to end.
He accepts all of the criticism of the team when they are struggling but feels a certain amount of satisfaction at the way Newcastle have responded to it all.
As he points out, they are guaranteed a top two finish this season, whatever happens.
“I’m tired of hearing whether our players are good enough. I’m tired of hearing whether our players could beat the team of 2006 and 2007,” he said.
“We are always being questioned and I am not mad at the questions.
“I’m upset that people are answering those questions to be honest, because I think there are too many people ready to make assumptions about what is going on here.
“If me or Charles aren’t good enough or are too old now I think that the signs would be there. And similarly, if our players aren’t good enough then I think that the signs would be there and that you would see that.
“All said and done it is not the fact that questions have been asked, it is the fact that answers have already been supplied by people.
“My answer is that people can say that our era is done when we finish out of the top five but last year we were second, this year we are already guaranteed top two.
“We have been there or thereabouts for a long time and we continue to be there.”