ONE man who knows about building a successful team is Paul Smith.
As a player and a coach he has won plenty of silverware and the former Cheshire Jets head coach has thrown his support behind the man who replaced him last year, John Lavery.
The Jets recently went on a seven-game run without a win, which saw some fans voice concerns about the club making the BBL Championship play-offs. But a run of three successive victories has lifted the gloom – and Smith believes Lavery is on the right track and may even bring silverware to Chester this season.
“People tend to judge a coach on wins and losses but that’s not always a fair thing to do,” said Smith. “This is John’s first year, he’s doing it on his own and there’s a seriously tight budget, which is right in this economic climate.
“He’s had a whole load of injuries, probably more than we’ve had in the previous two or three seasons put together yet despite that they’ve been in pretty much every game.
“I think it’s a great testament to John that he’s worked out what he wants his team to do and we’re starting to see some of the results of that now. It wouldn’t surprise me if the guys go on a good run and qualify for the play-offs well inside the top eight.”
Smith believes Lavery has been a victim of circumstance with the injury problems the squad has experienced.
“John is big into physical conditioning, but injuries come down to luck,” he said. “For example Matt came down on his ankle. No amount of fitness training is going to stop that.
“If you’re 17 or 18 stone and you come down from 36 inches on to the side of your foot, something’s going to go.”
Asked whether a larger squad with less quality should have been considered, Smith disagreed.
“Hindsight’s always useful but if you ask the two coaches who’ve coached the Jets to trophies recently, myself and Robbie Peers, we would have had the same philosophy.
“Don’t forget the Jetwash year when we won everything we had essentially five guys. I think if we had gone with seven rather than five we may not have won anything.”
Smith also highlighted the fact the Jets as a business is being run within a budget that secures its future.
“The business is being run in the right way,” he said. “You look at teams like Mersey, they won a lot last year but they spent money they didn’t have and it’s going to take them years to recover. That’s not the way the Jets are doing it.
“Don’t forget we nearly lost the club a few years ago. It was saved by fans and is being run by fans who make tremendous sacrifices. If the likes of Pete (Hawkins) and Andy (Green) put the amount of energy they put into the Jets elsewhere they’d be millionaires.
“They do it from a passion for the club. It’s run not just for today, but for tomorrow.”
The Jets this week released Greek forward Milan Psaltou and have signed Kai Williams, the younger brother of former Jet Jamal Williams. He will be available for Sunday’s visit to the Northgate of table-topping Newcastle Eagles (5.30pm).
He said: “I am going to try and bring as much energy and effort as I can and fit any role that is asked of me. I would just like to contribute as much as I can heading into the playoffs.
“I am excited to play against Jamal at Plymouth later in the season. We’ve never played against each other in a league, so it should be interesting.”