Continuity is real mantra for Raiders boss Love
GAVIN LOVE hopes this season is third time lucky in many ways.
Short-term, Marjon Plymouth Raiders' coach hopes the club can end what will be a six-year wait for only a second top-flight title in British basketball.
Long-term, Love hopes this summer he has assembled a group of players who want to make Plymouth and the BBL their home, so Raiders don't have to wait so long for a third championship.
"It will be interesting to see how we gel, but we have good characters and characters who want to play here," said Raiders coach Love of his 2012/13 line-up. "That's pleased us as a club.
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"Most guys got in touch with us this year, wanting to play in Plymouth. That means a lot and I really think we'll be able to keep this team together now."
In year one under Love, 2010/11, Raiders recruited but could not keep stars like Evaldas Zabas, Cody Toppert and Jerome Gumbs. This summer, centre Paul Williams left for a lucrative contract in Japan.
Love, 34, who has two seasons left on his current contract, said: "Obviously in my first two years here we were trying to win, which was brilliant but I knew it was going to be nigh-on impossible to keep those teams together.
"But this year I've looked at it and spoke to the players, and we have a real chance of starting something here and keeping this group together. Then we'll see what we can really accomplish."
This summer Love pivotally retained point-guard Jeremy Bell, wing-man Michael Ojo and homegrown big-man Anthony Rowe. Guard Drew Lasker has returned to Raiders after two years elsewhere in the BBL and forward Colin O'Reilly and centre Matt Schneck have joined from rivals Cheshire Jets.
Rookie power-forward Javarris Barnett, out of the University of Charlotte, completes the seven-strong mix.
Love added: "My first two years here it was one-and-done, one-and-done, but I don't want that anymore. I want to really build a team and keep a core of guys together who I really know are going to be here long-term.
"It's a little way away yet, but we've spoke about giving players longer contracts. Who wouldn't want to be in Plymouth? It's great to play here."
Lasker, 29, said: "If things go in the right direction this season I'd be willing to do something long-term like a two-year deal.
"I'm at a point now in my life where I just want to be at a professional organisation, who I know are going to compete for championships.
"Plymouth are heading in that direction, so I'm definitely committed to being here long-term."
Lasker added: "I can't speak for anybody else, but if we do well this year, hopefully we can keep this group of guys together."
It took Raiders seven seasons in the elite league to reach two BBL finals, in 2007 and 2009 before Love, in his second year in charge, repeated that feat in one campaign in 2011/12.
Of course, Raiders' record is now 1-3 in BBL finals but Love has arguably forged the club into the most fashionable in Britain behind dominant powerhouse Newcastle Eagles in 24 heady months.
O'Reilly, 28, joined Raiders early this summer after three seasons at Jets.
He said: "I always look at a club's recent history and see if they're on the way up or on the way down. Since I came into the league Plymouth have got better and better."
Schneck, 24, followed O'Reilly to Plymouth later this off-season after two years at Jets.
He said: "I've always been impressed with how professional the organisation is and the fanbase, facilities and the basketball community in Plymouth.
"This is a change for me, after two years at Cheshire, who I wish well, but I'm looking forward to starting something new here."
Lasker spent his first five years in professional basketball at Raiders from 2005-10 when he met his now wife, Ayshea from Plympton.
Lasker said: "I got a few calls this summer, but as soon as I got the call from Gavin I immediately told my wife, 'I'm not even interested in anywhere else'.
"I'm glad it worked out and I'm so excited to be back. Obviously my wife's from here; I started my career here; I'm comfortable here."
O'Reilly said: "Plymouth have a young, energetic coach who's really into the game and I like being involved with a team who are really up for games."
The bottom line is, as perhaps it always should be in sport, we've all had a terrific time witnessing some breathtaking basketball at the Pavilions since Love took over.
Love's done a fantastic job and it's worth remembering a lot of people in Plymouth thought and – let's say it – quietly hoped he'd fall flat on his face.
"I'm really pleased with how we've gone the two years I've been here," said Love. "We just have to give ourselves the opportunity to win things again this season. My job is to put us in that place."
Love added: "It's a tough ask to replicate what we did last year, but my goal is to make us consistent title contenders."
Raiders' real experience this year is in their backcourt and on the wings, with Bell, Lasker and O'Reilly all entering their eighth season professionally.
Up front is where the younger legs are with rookie Barnett, fourth-year pro Rowe and third-year pro Schneck.
O'Reilly said: "We have a veteran BBL team really. If we can play to our potential, there are trophies there for us to win, but it's a long process to get there. We just have to take it one day at a time."