NEXT Sunday’s clash against the Canberra Capitals is set to be the last for Bendigo Bank Spirit head coach Simon Pritchard, following the club’s decision not to renew his contract into the WNBL’s 2019/2020 season.
Pritchard, who took the helm in 2015, has coached 88 games for the team and was key to the campaign to build the club’s position following a tumultuous period of off-court battles in 2014 and 2015.
He admitted on Monday that his role was more than just that of coach – and it was that, subsequently entering the club into a partnership with Bendigo Stadium Limited, of which he is most proud.
“Early on, it changed from being a coaching job to a resuscitation job of an organisation,” Pritchard said.
“In my first season, probably in the first six weeks I worked out that it wasn’t going to be so much about coaching, it was getting this organisation back on its feet, and I promised to myself that I would leave it in a better place than I found it, and I think that’s the case.
“I don’t have another coach coming into what I came into, I think that’s great.”
Pritchard, who came to Bendigo following a stint as assistant coach with Canberra, said not making finals in four seasons led to self-reflection.
“Just on that alone you’ve got to evaluate and go is it time for somebody else, and time for a new voice?” he said.
“From my perspective, how hard did I work? Did I work hard enough? Did I cover all the bases as I went along? and I feel like I did – I couldn’t have left anymore out there in terms of the work I put in.”
Ahead of parting ways, Pritchard said the strategies now in place for the team, including utilising the entirety of the new Bendigo Stadium as part of the club’s whole program and operation, sets the Spirit up well for the future.
“There are far more positives going forward than many clubs going around,” he said.
“One of the great things about this club is they live within their means.
“We’ve got some clubs in the WNBL who have declared six-weeks out that they’re not going to go on next season. Why is that?
“They are trying to work to a sustainable model (in Bendigo), and only spend what they can afford, and I think that’s a great thing in terms of a business plan.
“You don’t want boom and bust, and I think there’s a plan for this to grow over the next four years.”
The Spirit’s last suit up for the season will be a farewell of sorts for Pritchard, with the team coming up against former Bendigo stars Kelsey Griffin and Kelly Wilson, both key components of Pritchard’s Spirit roster at points during his tenure, and now both with Canberra.
Attention is now turning to Pritchard’s replacement, with the advertising for a new head coach to soon commence.
Bendigo Stadium’s General Manager of Sport Ben Harvey said the club wanted Pritchard’s successor to have the best opportunity to plan ahead for next season’s first ball.
“The new coach will need to bring sound knowledge as well as the skills to instil a culture of success, determination and growth,” he said.
For Pritchard, he said coaching basketball in some capacity in the future would still be on the cards, as well as tilting the possibility of going into sports administration, citing a need in women’s sport.
“I think I know with my business skills, plus my coaching skills, I really could have something to contribute in terms of administering a sporting team…,” he said.
“I love playing golf … I might go home (to Adelaide) and play golf”.
– Sam Kane