Billy Mims is readying
to pack his bags and head back across the Atlantic for a new life in the
western heart of Texas.
However the ex-Leopards
and Leicester coach insists a chunk of his heart will always be on this
side of the Pond.
wife Lynne and their trio of offspring are firmly British, born and bred.
Likewise Mims has long gone native right down to his fervour for the food
and for Arsenal.
"I'll be able to
get their games on pay per view," he smiles. "I'll probably see more of
them in Texas than I did in England."
Still, his new job
as the first full-time head coach at the University of Texas of the Permian
Basin is a major departure, from the BBL and from Leicestershire.
"A challenge," he
admits. A triumph also, having emerged victorious from 200 applicants for
His new abode sounds
idyllic. Lots of golf courses ("I've been checking them out"), a big community
("two cities within 20 miles") and all-year heat. "As soon as they told
my wife what the annual number of days of sunshine was, she was sold."
UTPB is part of the
University of Texas system, a college just 35 years old. However they have
big plans. A switch into NCAA Division One. A $35m arena in the works to
replace their current 2,500 capacity basketball gym.
"I have a big opportunity
to build a programme just like when I went to Barry University. You asked
anyone in Miami then and they were like 'Barry has a basketball team?'
"This place is way
above that. We're only 60 miles south of Lubbock and I'm planning to go
up and watch coach Bob Knight take practice up at Texas Tech.
"And hopefully get
them to schedule a game against us. I also know one of the assistant coaches
at Kansas and we want to go up to Jayhawk country and take them on."
That infectious enthuasiasm
is certainly back, six months after he was cruelly ditched by Leicester.
"No comment" is all he will say on the legal case which is pending against
the Riders who have refuted his call to pay up what was left on his contract.
However he is taking
more than just his playbook from the Midlands. Carl Greenfield, a 67
power forward from Ilkeston, has signed a letter of intent to play for
Mims next season, the first foreign student-athlete to wear the orange
and black of the Falcons.
Greenfield went previously
to East Durham Academy where he helped his team before returning to South
Nottingham College who reached the Under 20s National Cup Final with his
Mims said: He is
a fundamentally sound player that will bring a lot of maturity and international
experience to our team. Carl comes from a quality program and has
been well coached. He is a team player that works hard and does not
make many mistakes.
"I am sure that his
educational and sporting opportunity at UTPB will be a great experience
for him and one that he will look back on fondly when he returns home to
The BBL which greeted
Mims a decade ago is much changed now, however. The Leopards which he built
in tandem with Ed Simons and Harvey Goldsmith were big time, flashy and
full of huge dreams.
It seems a bygone
era, already, I suggest. "When I came in, you had the likes of John Hall
(owner at Newcastle), Chris Wright (Sheffield), Harvey and Barry Marshall
(London)," he recalls.
"75% of the league
were in arenas and clubs were drawing several thousands, regardless of
whether you want to argue over how many tickets were given away.
"Basketball was in
The Sun every day. The Leopards on Michael Barrymore's show. I did 'You
Bet' with John White. We had a game on TV every weekend.
"Now it's gone. TV
is gone. The fans have gone. The ITV money has gone. For whatever reason
we have been unable to sustain the development. And without TV, there's
no longer much difference between the BBL and EBL. It's sad."
That critique leaves
him open to accusations of grapes turned sour. Yet if there is a figure
who has earned the occasional dash of lampoonery for his ability to see
a positive amid the gloom then it is Mims himself.
The BBL has been
fantastic for him, he underlines. Leopards was great, Leicester too - at
least for a while.
"I can't say anything
negative about my time here. And I won't be a stranger with our family
and friends still being here."
Expected to have
seen the last of Mims? Don't bet on it.