Goorjian dreaming big after remarkable resurgence

Basketball master mentor Brian Goorjian has boldly declared: “This is just the beginning” after leading the Illawarra Hawks from last place to the playoffs.

The marvel that is Goorjian, who for the 21st consecutive season took his team to the NBL final four, has the Hawks believing anything is possible following his strong first year at the franchise.

Illawarra booked its finals berth with a thrilling 81-79 win over back-to-back champions Perth on Tuesday night.

Brian Goorjian and the Hawks are ready to swoop in on the NBL play-offs. Picture: Mark Kolbe / Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The impressive win, combined with the emotion of the Hawks’ remarkable resurgence, has Goorjian daring to dream in the finals.

“I’m back in this (with the NBL) for moments like this,” said Goorjian, who returned to coach Illawarra this season following a decade in China.

“This is a moment in time you dream about, you think about. It has happened in the past, and they can’t take those away from you.

“But this is a pursuit of something new. How many we won or what I’ve done in the past as far as this is concerned, I wouldn’t have got back into it, and I would have stayed away from it.

“I’m so excited about being with a new organisation, in a great city and starting from last place and building and pursuing something new.”

From his vast experience, which includes a record six NBL championships, Goorjian understands the importance of soaking up each moment.

It’s why he didn’t rush off the court on Tuesday night when the Hawks defeated the Wildcats.

He wanted to relish the sheer joy on his players’ faces. He also took time to enjoy the smiles of passionate Wollongong fans in the stands.

“Because I’ve learnt over the course of time not to move out of that moment quickly,” he said.

“Enjoy that moment, saviour it.

“It has been a long build to get to the playoffs, and then mentally we will go into that box.

“But right now, I don’t give a hoot about who we play next, it is about embracing this moment with a great group of guys.

“I’m not going to stop now; I’m going to give it more time.”

Goorjian is enjoying every moment of the Hawks’ epic run to the play-offs. Picture: Phil Walter / Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Goorjian knows his Hawks aren’t at the championship level of proven performers like Perth, but he adores his team’s spirit.

It is this dogged quality he believes will give Illawarra every chance of causing an upset in the finals.

“They (Perth) are so far further down the road than we are now, but it was all about competitive spirit, a culture and young guys who are just excited in the moment,” he said.

“I know basketball is about strategy, but this win came from a passion within the group to not lose.

“It is one thing that I told the community heading into these last three weeks that we are going to leave it all on the court and we are going to bleed for this organisation and city.

“I’m just so proud of how together this group is for such a short period of time and how hard they play.”

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