Fab Flournoy has identified Darius Defoe as his heir apparent and announced: “The Newcastle Eagles will be his team in two years”.
Defoe was one of Flournoy’s first picks as he assembled a new-look team over the summer and he backed up the confidence of his player-coach with two fantastic performances in the Eagles’ successful opening weekend fixtures.
It comes as little surprise to Flournoy, who was simply delighted to retain Defoe’s services for the season with European offers on the table for the long-serving forward. He has now revealed that Defoe is being groomed for a leadership role when Flournoy steps down from playing.
“Darius is a guy who just really, really wants to be here. We made changes over the summer but Darius is not here because we wanted him to be here, he’s here because he wanted to be here,” Flournoy said.
“Darius could have earned double his money by going somewhere else and he had those options this summer and he had those options last summer. But Darius chose to stay here because he has that love for this club and any time you have a player like that you feel very lucky as a coach.
“I feel that I have a great relationship with Darius. Two or three years ago I did something that I very rarely do and I actually called him out in public over his performances. Darius responded in exactly the right way and stepped up and I think he has been a stand-out player for the last two seasons.
“This weekend, next weekend, the weekend after – I know exactly what I am going to get from Darius and it is always good.”
Defoe’s performances have prompted the revlelation from Flournoy that he will look to the forward to take over his mantle in the coming years.
Having turned 40 in the summer, Flournoy has been made acutely aware that his days as a front-line player in the BBL are coming to an end. While he intends to play on for as long as his body allows, he has already given a few thoughts to his successor and Defoe clearly has a major part to play in the post-Flournoy era.
“Over the next two years, this will be Darius’ team,” Flournoy said.
“I cannot play for ever and I see Darius coming in and taking on some of the things that I do. He will be the one that instills our ethos and our foundations on new players both on and off the court.
“When all is said and done this will be Darius’ team in as little as two years and that is something I can confidently predict.”
Flournoy’s one warning to Defoe is that he needs to improve his discipline to avoid the foul trouble which has dogged his game. “It is the one thing that I think Darius needs to work on. He needs to stay out of foul trouble,” he said.
“Every season the one thing that hurts him is foul trouble. I have to take him out of games too early and it is frustrating because he is such a fantastic player in so many other ways.
“Once he masters that I think that he will be well on his way to being one of the premier players in the BBL, which is where I think he is approaching now anyway. It is just that little final piece of the jigsaw.”
The Eagles head to Plymouth Raiders this weekend with Flournoy predicting a backlash from a team that lost to the London Lions on the opening weekend.
“They are always strong and they will be desperate to avenge that,” Flournoy said.