Fab Flournoy will send his Newcastle Eagles team out to clinch the BBL title this weekend with the message: “You’re all stars to me”.
The Eagles have two games to win as they look to get their hands back on the crown of British basketball’s best team.
They head to Birmingham tonight and then take on Surrey Heat in Guildford knowing a pair of victories will be enough to nick the tightest title race in years.
It has been a real journey for Flournoy’s team, who are unlike any of the sides he has picked and led in other years.
The Eagles’ player-coach feels his players compliment each other perfectly – and while they have been “horrible” in some games this year it has clicked during the run-in.
He said: “I think this team fits like a glove.
“We have special roles and identities. It’s almost like we are perfectly suited to play together and that is a pleasing thing that I take out of this season.
“The funny thing is when we are playing our game, if one player doesn’t well then we look horrible.
“There have been games where we have looked absolutely horrible but that is something which happens when we have a team which plays like we do.”
Flournoy knows in previous years there has been a stand-out player but for this team there is a definite unity of purpose.
He added: “We’re all equals. We all have our own identities and our own role to play.
“The difference between this team and previous teams is we all have our role to play.
“Everyone’s role is significant, everyone’s role is as important as everyone else’s and that means this is a different team from any we have had before.
“The way we play everyone has to turn up every time we play and they have to play at the maximum level which is different from other teams.
“We don’t have room for error. There is no margin for error every Friday night. We have our guards and our forwards – our forwards, Scott (Martin) and Darius (Defoe) have to show up every night.
“They have had to play every game as if it is a title decider and they have been doing that, week-in, week-out.
“Darius and Scott are our big men but they are not true big men so they have to perform well every night.
“We have our inbetweener guys, they have to play well and they have to go toe-to-toe with some of the best guys on the court. Then we have our guards, Paul (Gause) and Drew (Lasker). They run the team and they have been great for us as well.
“Everyone has their role and everyone is special.
“I do not see this as a team where one player is above everyone else, I see this as a team where everyone is equal and playing their role.”
It is a slight disappointment for Flournoy and the players they are away twice over the weekend, having completed their home programme with a terrific defeat of Sheffield Sharks last Friday.
They celebrated that win heartily – not because they believed they had done enough to win the title but because they wanted to share the joy with their loyal supporters.
There will be a hardy group who follow them both to Birmingham and Surrey as they look to clinch the title in Guildford for the second time.
Given the poor performances of both teams this year, Newcastle should have few problems blasting that pair away.
Flournoy said: “We would like to do it in front of our own fans.
“That is one of the reasons why we celebrated in front of our own fans last week. Our last game I felt like the fans enjoyed watching us and we celebrated winning the game.
“We have won the title in Guildford before, it has been done and we will be back for the play-offs so we will have the opportunity to come back and play in front of them again this season.”