Manchester Giants coach Jones burns the midnight oil to keep promotion alive

He may not be fat or bearded. He hasn’t got a particular penchant for wearing red, and if he isn’t the jolliest fellow it’s only because he’s always got the task of winning basketball games on his mind.

But much like Santa Claus, Manchester Giants’ head coach Jeff Jones will be working around the clock this Christmas to give the fans some much-needed cheer.

With very limited resources at his disposal, the task of picking up four wins out of four this festive season may seem as daunting as visiting every home in the world in one night.

But after two losses on the bounce – which have left the Giants clinging for dear life onto the final playoff spot – the veteran play-caller is as determined as ever.

“Even though Worcester Wolves are a great team,” he says ahead of tonight’s clash, “we go into each and every game thinking we can win.

“The BBL is so tough this year and it’ll be a real dogfight at the end of the season – there’ll be four or five teams scrapping for the last two playoff spots.

“But everyone here wants to win. We’re all competitive animals.”

Early in the season the Giants claimed some impressive scalps. They beat the Wolves in Trafford, before rattling off a couple of 100-point games, a rarity in British basketball.

If in those days Jones prowled the sideline like a gladiator, chest puffed-out, he could be accused of cutting something of a beleaguered figure recently. It’s completely understandable though. 

The early-season success was something of a double-edged sword. It only really served to inflate expectations way beyond control. 

This, combined with owning the league’s smallest budget, meant reality would be crushing for Jones and the team when it caught up with them.

But such is the life of a manager in the BBL. 

Jones is undoubtedly one of the fiercest competitors to ever grace British basketball – both as a player and coach – but even he has now consigned himself to the reality of his situation.

“If we had good results early in the season that certainly didn’t raise expectations on our part, but maybe it did for the fans,” he said.

“Reality is reality and you just deal with it. I think we flattered early on and recently we’ve had to readjust and refocus. 

“And unfortunately we’re still short-handed. I’d love another big guy on the team, another centre, but we just don’t have the budget for it.

“We just have to work with what we’ve got and that’s my job. But thankfully this team is hard-working and willing so we’ll see what we can do.”

Preaching realism is definitely smart. Unrealistic expectations tend to loom spectre-like around small-budget sides like the Giants, threatening to derail their season.

But you get the sense Jones will forget all that when the buzzer sounds tonight in Worcester. He’s a competitor to the core and there’s nothing he loves more than upsetting the odds. 

A mince pie and a glass of brandy wouldn’t be bad either, though.

Main image courtesy of Jack Hinds, with thanks.

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