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New Saigon Heat Coach Shakes up Team Roster Ahead of Next Season

Not many professional basketball coaches guide their team to a league title and then bolt to lead a new franchise on the other side of the planet.

But Kyle Julius is not most coaches.

Hot on the heels of steering the London Lightning to a National Basketball League (NBL) title in Canada, Julius hopped on a plane to fill the bench boss role for the ASEAN Basketball League’s (ABL) Saigon Heat, a position recently vacated by Great Britain national team coach Tony Garbelotto. Julius comes to the Heat with ample experience: prior to his coaching days, the Canadian played in the NCAA (America's collegiate basketball association) as well as in Europe. He was also on the Canadian men’s national team under Leo Rautins in 2005 between stints on different European clubs, and attended national team camps under the tutelage of current Phoenix Suns coach Jay Triano.

“I knew that a whole new challenge would be healthy for my career at this point,” Julius tells Saigoneer. The coach, who ended his career as a player in 2011, looks like he could still jump out on the floor and start shooting. “I knew coming to Vietnam would be a tremendous challenge for me, but it would be very rewarding.”

Julius inherits a team that has consistently made the playoffs in previous years but has failed to win a postseason game in the franchise’s short history. Still, he believes Heat player Moses Morgan looks to have endless potential, and the coach is optimistic about the impending announcement of David Arnold’s return. However the coach has also made some bold moves so far, waiving leading scorer and fan favorite Lenny Daniel as well as former ABL MVP Christien Charles. He’s recruited Jamaican national team member Akeem Scott, having become acquainted with the guard during his time in London.

Though Julius acknowledges that fans will certainly be disappointed by Daniel’s departure, the coach expects Scott to be a fan favorite “by the end of the first quarter”.

“He’s been an all-star all over the world,” says Julius, bullish on signing Scott in time for the ABL season. “Akeem Scott is the toughest and best leader I’ve ever been around.”

The Heat coach continues: “He’ll embody what we want to do as an organization. Everywhere he goes, he wins.”

While Charles’ signing backfired for the Heat, leading to a carousel of big men who occupied his position during a season plagued with injuries, Daniel’s release raises some eyebrows for long-time Heat fans. According to Julius, another major signing is in the works. Along with Charles’ departure, the Heat will also welcome center Travele Jones to the team, a move which was announced this past Friday.

Julius also arrives in Vietnam knowing that, while the Heat have some of the most passionate fans in the league, they’re growing restless with the team’s perennial first-round flameouts during the playoffs. In the coming months, he says fans can expect an open, up-tempo team, characteristic of the squads he built in London, where his team led the NBL in scoring during his tenure. As for the league, the coach believes it’s fair to say that teams will go as far as their depth will take them. To this end, he identifies members of the VBA Heat like Huynh Hai and Ngoc Tu as players with bright futures.

“This is a league based on how good your locals are,” he says, noting the local talent Hong Kong brought to their title run last year. “[But] I do think there’s a fair amount of parity, too.”

We’ll see how it all shakes out for this new version of the Heat as they tip off the ABL season December 9 at CIS Stadium in District 7.


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In Its Second Season, Vietnam's Pro Basketball League Continues to Grow

Dragons Torch Saigon Heat, Advance to ABL Finals

Vietnam Is Getting a Pro Basketball League


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