Mims staying firmly upbeat
Defending Budweiser League champions adidas Greater London Leopards may have only got off to a 1-3 start in the opening six weeks of the season but their ebullient American coach Billy Mims flatly refuses to be downbeat about his team's chances of achieving three titles in succession.
"It's all gone exactly as planned. We were actually hoping to open up the season one and three, but we've actually increased our expectations because it's been a very bad one and three. The only thing we could have done better was to be zero and four !"
"All jokes aside. The expectations of a championship programme are always high and after opening with a win, we still felt we had to make some changes, which is why we brought back Eric Burks. We have a lot of new players, having lost John White and Makeba Perry and even some of our role players moved onto greener pastures, but we think we've done a good job of bringing in some younger British talent. Ben Baum is one of the best young English prospects to come into this country in quite a while and he's been in superb form so far. . We've brought in David Attewell, a great young prospect also, kept Brian Moore and added Stedroy Baker, so we probably have the best group of English guys that we've ever had. If this team was in Europe tomorrow, it would be a very strong team."
Aside from his responsibilities at the Leopards, Mims has been involved in bringing in another member of his team in early autumn. His new baby daughter Callie Elizabeth Mims. Last time, the South Carolinan became a father, it proved a good luck charm in Leopards first title winning year, and Mims acknowledges the similarity of both his "jobs".
"With a lot of new players here, it's a growing process for us. Babies are born, they have to crawl before they can walk, and have to walk before they can run. All clichés aside, when the end of the season comes around, this team will be running. Last time I had a daughter born, she proved to be a great good luck charm for her father so hopefully it will be the same this year. I can promise that I'm going to be very focussed on the games in the future, because now I've got two mouths to feed !"
Mims' early moves into the market saw the arrival of 2.04 American forward Tim Moore, a veteran of the USBL, but it was the belated return of 1998 MVP Burks which provoked the most surprise. Acting as his agent, Mims had spent the summer lining Burks up with a chance to make the NBA but with the lockout in progress, it was East London not Miami on the guard's passport. Mims admits that he had mixed feelings about re-signing his former star.
"At the end of the day, Eric and I are like family. We have a lot of friends and family in common back in the States and we went to the same university. Eric has achieved the ultimate since he has been in British basketball, wining back to back Championships and being the player of the year last year. So I don't think there is anything left for him to achieve here. The ultimate desire for him would be to go to the highest level, the NBA. Over the summer I worked very hard as his friend, as his agent and as his coach to place him in a position to get to the NBA with the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, it didn't work out due to the lockout and although there was interest from Spain, Italy and Portugal, Eric asked me to bring him back. He said that there are things more important than money at of this stage of his career, plus personal issues for him, but mostly Eric came home because he likes being a Leopard and the organisation looks after him."
Whether it's playing father or father figure, Mims will be hoping for success for his on and off court families. A nice silver trophy would certainly look good in the nursery for starters by next May.
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