After a week of soul searching, Fab Flournoy thinks that his Newcastle Eagles are finally addressing the problems that have undermined their efforts this season.
He stops short of saying they have answered them, though. As satisfied as he was with back-to-back victories over an important weekend, the Eagles class of 2013/14 remain very much a work-in-progress.
That is what is bothering the Eagles chief as he heads into a BBL Cup semi-final against an in-form Sheffield Sharks on Friday that could “make or break” this developing team. If Newcastle drop below the levels they set over this weekend, they might find themselves right back at square one.
“It is hard for us to lose back-to-back games like we did and it was a reflective period for us. We addressed the issues that have presented themselves so far and we have put ourselves in a better position,” Flournoy says.
“I’m not saying we have answered those questions though. We have addressed them but not necessarily ended them.”
Flournoy is honest enough to admit that the big issues involved complacency and the group’s motivation when they were taking on the BBL’s middleweight powers – and he includes himself as part of the problem. He allowed the team to slip into bad habits and has pledged not to turn a blind eye again.
“I was allowing players to get away with things that I would not normally allow them to get away with,” he said.
“It is about how we conduct ourselves on the court. I am someone who believes you have to get the little things right and in terms of the Xs and the Os we have to get it right. We weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing.
“Also I don’t think we had the right motivation as a group. It wasn’t there as a collective and I had allowed that to breed, which came back to haunt us.
“This kind of thing does happen but it needs to be addressed and from my experience, the earlier that you address it the better you are able to come back from it.”
With respect to Surrey and the ever-improving Durham, the apparent improvements that Flournoy has noticed will get their sternest examination this weekend as Newcastle look to overturn a slim Sheffield advantage in the second leg of the BBL Cup.
The Sharks were excellent in beating Plymouth Raiders on Sunday and are now top of the BBL rankings, something that will give them added confidence as they look to see out the BBL Cup tie at Sport Central.
Turn it around and the Eagles might conceivably think they have turned a corner; lose the game and they know they are still searching for the formula to turn this team into a feared unit.
“Traditionally the Cup is one that sets the tone for the rest of the season. It can make or break a season,” Flournoy said.
“It’s a pivotal point of the season. It is either where you go on and build or where the cracks start to appear and the light starts to come through. Win it and you can end up building on that momentum but lose it and you have to address what is going on.
“We have not traditionally done particularly well in the Cup because the format does not help us and it is usually played at a point when we are still getting our season together. But funnily enough it can actually harden your resolve, which has happened to us in the past and turned our season around. It is a very important game for us.”
Flournoy thinks that the Eagles have learned something from every Cup exit – but felt that it would too simplistic to say that last year’s early exit in the competition caused their concerns.
“Last season was about injuries. We lost myself and Damon Huffman just after we went out of the Cup, which was just a coincidence really. That defeat was not what changed the season,” he said.