James Vear on whirlwind start to life with the Lions

By Jamie Thomas

It is yet to have been a full month since Coach James Vear
took over the reigns at the London Lions, and the relentless fixture schedule
means that the club’s new play-caller has had little time to take a breath.

After arguably his most successful week in the post to date,
however, leading the Lions to best the Bakken Bears in FIBA Europe Cup action
before handing the Leicester Riders their first BBL Championship defeat of the
season, Vear found some time to catch up with us and discuss his hectic start
to life with the Lions.

“It has been a whirlwind, but it has been really, really
good.” Vear said.

“It feels like I’ve been here a much longer time – I’ve lost
track of how long I’ve actually been here! – but being thrust into the role
with a lot of games coming thick and fast was good for me, I think, as it made
me have to settle in quickly.

“With the run of European games alongside some very tough
BBL fixtures, it has been a challenge for sure, but I feel like I’ve got my
feet underneath the table now and I’ve loved the experience of it all.

“I feel like the guys understand the way I’m wanting to play
and what I’m trying to develop both offensively and defensively and hopefully
the results continue to be positive for us.”

“I am sometimes just in awe at their talent.”

Having developed a leading reputation in his work coaching
the best young talent in the British game over recent years, Vear is a
highly-respected coach in the British game and has taken to the challenge of
coaching at a senior level in the BBL with the vigour that has made him such a
success in coaching at academy level.

Vear discussed the transition from coaching at academy level
to coaching seniors, and dealing with the expectations placed on him and the
team as the season progresses.

“For the last four or five years I’ve been coaching academy
players and there is a huge difference in terms of the management of the team,
how you speak to and handle the players, and above all else what these players
can do, obviously.

“I absolutely knew these were great players before I was
Head Coach, but getting to watch them everyday in practice now I am sometimes
just in awe at their talent and the ability that there is in this group –
working with them every day is just an absolute pleasure.

“There are rightly expectations on me and this team, because
we have a great roster and we should be expected to win things, but we’re not
looking too far ahead. Everything is going into the next game, learning from
that one, and improving for the next one, but we like having that pressure on
us as it brings the best out of us.”

“We know there is a lot more work ahead of us.”

The recent win over the Riders signifies the team’s growth
under Vear as, in his second outing for the Lions against Rob Paternostro’s
side, London overturned what was a comfortable victory for Leicester a few
weeks ago at the Copper Box Arena into a narrow victory against the dominant
league leaders.

The Head Coach discussed the challenges that the club’s
relentless schedule has posed in developing the team in practice, but how that
work behind the scenes that they are able to do is starting to pay dividends.

“We played Leicester a few weeks ago and they beat us fairly
convincingly, if we’re honest about it, but at that point it was still fairly
early in my tenure as Head Coach and we hadn’t had much practice time at all
because of the volume of games we had to contend with, so I knew we’d be

“It was a real challenge to come into the role and have so
many games and not much practice time at all, not being able to do any work on
the practice court on the concepts that I wanted to instil, but I feel like
we’ve slowly been able to find more time and the guys have been really

“Last week showed, I think, the value of that practice time
because we had a great result in Europe and then followed that up by beating a
team that was previously undefeated in the Championship, so those were really
positive signs, but we know there is a lot more work to do ahead of us.”

“It is so exciting to think of what we could be.”

So where will the evolution be from the Lions of Vince
Macaulay to the side Vear now hopes to develop? The new play-caller elaborated
and discussed what he sees laying ahead for the Lions.

“I want us to play an up-tempo style of basketball, and we
already had the personnel to do that and people who enjoy that style of play,
so finding ways to maximise that is important, but we want to share the ball
more as well and feel like when we do this, we’re very difficult to handle as
we have so many threats and weapons that can really hurt teams.

“Defensively we want to dictate the tempo more, we want to
pressure teams and make them feel uncomfortable, and I feel like we’re getting
there, but there is a lot more to come, there is a lot of expectation placed on
us, and we look forward to what lays ahead.

“We have so many threats on this team that we can have days
where anybody on the roster goes off and takes over for us to win the game. Not
just Isaish Reese or Dirk Williams, as many refer to, but Julian Washburn,
Lorenzo Cugini, Justin Robinson – who is only getting better and better – and
then you’ve got the likes of Ryan Martin, Jordan Williams and so many more, and
it is so exciting to think of what we could be when everything clicks.”

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