Giant Days Ahead For Manchester
Manchester Giants Head Coach Danny Byrne looks on. Source - Manchester Giants

Although no date has been announced for the start of the BBL season as yet there is still significant movement from the member Clubs to sign and announce their rosters for the forthcoming games.

One of the biggest movers in this sphere have been the Manchester Giants who are looking to put last season's winless record behind them. They are certainly shaking things up in the North West and Giants fans can look forward to an exciting season once it gets going.

I caught up with Head Coach Danny Byrne to get his feelings from The Land of The Giants and Danny, as always, was fresh, honest, and very forthcoming with his thoughts.

First and foremost, how are you and how have you coped since lockdown?

'I am very well thank you. I have actually enjoyed lockdown; it has been good to be able to spend some real-time with the family in what is normally a hectic time for me with coaching and being a university lecturer.'

'Lockdown also gave me a lot of time to re-evaluate last season and focus on recruitment and the changes to the club moving forward into this coming season.'

Would it be fair to say that you were one of the few that was pleased the season ended early?

'I think at the time, it was like a huge weight off my shoulders, there was a lot of pressure building due to having a zero in the win column. However, we were starting to compete and play well together, so maybe in hindsight, there could've been a win around the corner?'

It must have been a disappointing and frustrating season for you particularly after the previous one?

'Yes, very disappointing, I really thought that we were going to push on from that and do well. Lots of things went wrong that were out of my control, players with visa issues, perhaps our key recruit deciding not to join the club a week before pre-season, players arriving in the country late, I've never experienced so many injuries all at the same time.'

'Lack of training facilities/time. Cutting players and not being allowed to replace due to budget not being there. Although there were so many underlying problems, I certainly coached to the best the situation would allow, at times I was really trying to plait fog.'

To this season now and big changes ahead for The Giants under a new regime?

'Yes, new ownership, they know and understand basketball, which is a massive help as you are able to be on the same page, we both share the same vision in trying to take the club forward and not repeat the past.'

'There are lots of exciting things going on in the background which will help us flourish not just on the court but more importantly within the community.'

How hard was it to let players go, particularly the Jones brothers and Ingus Bankevics, who had been loyal to the Giants?

'As mentioned already, being in lockdown enabled me to reflect and seriously look at how we can move the club forward. I had many different conversations regarding the playing staff from last season. I will be honest, some players it was easier to not bring back, and others, big decisions had to be made.'

'I made the decision that I wanted to go a lot younger this coming season (last season we had a squad average age of 31, with 4 of the top 10 oldest players in the BBL), I wanted a more athletic team with a different energy level about the players, and a big emphasis on defence.'

'In the last three seasons, I've had a team that has had to try and score 91 pts just to try and get the chance to win. I also looked at how would I like to operate the players on the bench.'

'Would I prefer to give some minutes to young up and coming 18-20-year-olds and let them learn and grow (also the opportunity for the young guys to be the next generation of Brits for Giants), or keep giving minutes to players who are in the latter part of their career.'

'With all that in mind I decided to not resign the Joneses and Bankevics (as well as the other players). It was a massive decision, one I really did not enjoy making, one that some of the fans didn't like/understand, but we have to move on at some point, and create new Manchester Giants legends.'

'I really appreciate everything that those three had given me the last three years and they will always be Giants legends, and rightly so.'

A total restructure seems to be the way forward for you now and you must be delighted and excited with the move to Belle Vue?

'Yes, we felt that a total restructure and a new identity was needed, and along with that, we are moving into the performance centre at Belle Vue. This is huge for us, it's exciting for me to actually have one of the better arenas in the league and call it home.'

'It allows us to practice more, it allows the players to shoot more, which I never had over the last three seasons. For once, I feel like we will not be starting on the back foot, but equal to everyone else in the league.'

Your recruitment for this season is coming along nicely. You've made some big statements, particularly with your import players?

'If you say so, thank you. These players come from high pedigree; we've been looking at these guys for a while (before the season was ended by COVID). We always have one eye on recruitment throughout the year.'

'Recruitment is something me and my scout really pride ourselves on, in being able to uncover these hidden gems and bring them to league. This time I also get to help grow the careers of the younger brits that we have recruited as well as work with the talented imports.'

'While the likes of Sam Cassell Jr. and Lyle Hexom are big statements, our focus has been on getting the whole unit right, and I think our biggest statement is that we have recruited 12 players with good balance. If we get the chemistry right on and off the floor, we should see a few wins this coming season.'

You're also placing a lot of faith in Jack Hudson? Who coincidentally is a friend of mine!

'I have tried to recruit Jack for the three years I've been in charge. Luckily, I was able to bring him in this time round, and he's really impressed. Great IQ, absolute workhorse, prides himself on defence and is also a natural leader.'

'The main part of our recruitment strategy was, can we put the right pieces around Jack to help him flourish and help him learn as he progresses his BBL career. You see a lot on social media that BBL teams do not give young Brits the opportunity, but Jack deserves this opportunity.'

'He's one of the few Brits that hasn't been to America for college but guarded the best PGs last season and never looked out of place. We were always at our best last season when Jack was on the floor. So, why not build around the new future of Manchester Giants.'

Are there any more signings to come that might make us sit up and notice?

'Yes, one or two. As I said previously, this is about the complete unit now, and we have recruited a total of 12 players.'

'We still have five British guys to announce, including guys who have a big role to play and young developing players who we hope are the future local core of the club - all of these guys are hungry to prove themselves.'

With all that is going on you must be excited to get the season rolling and have high hopes for what you can achieve?

"I really cannot wait to get going. Very excited to get this team on the floor and see what's possible. This will be my 4th year as Head Coach (the longest anyone has coached Giants since they came back in 2012), I have learnt so much over the last three seasons and continue to grow."

'I feel like I know what needs to be done and how to achieve it, especially now I have greater backing and belief form the management and am quietly confident we can be a pleasant surprise this coming season.'

The enthusiasm and commitment Danny Byrne has for his job and Manchester Giants clearly comes across passionately. He is an intelligent man that knows what he wants and what he hopes to achieve not just this season but in the future.

Under new ownership, with a new venue and a new-look team and style, this could really be a Giant of a season for basketball in Manchester.

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