Upon signing as Manchester Giants coach, Vince Macaulay had one thing on his bucket list to cross off.
Liverpool FC tickets.
And thanks to a former Brixton Topcats team-mate, Andy Powlesland along with Mo Stewart, both Liverpool employees and close friends, the lifelong Red was able to get his hands on some.
“Oh yeah, I got some tickets,” Macaulay, a born Liverpudlian said with a chuckle.
“I’m really looking forward to getting over there and watching Liverpool play. Sadly, I won’t able to see Sadio Mane play but Liverpool are still looking impressive ahead of the new season.”
Being so close to home also means that Macaulay can spend a little more time with his family as his sister, aunties and uncles still reside in the city.
Despite the plans for family get-togethers and day trips to Anfield, Macaulay will be based 56 kilometres away, aiming to bring success to a rebuilding Giants.
It also marks a triumphant return to British basketball for Macaulay, a widely popular figure having been part of the Milton Keynes Lions since 1997, spearheading their relocation and building a successful franchise in London before departing in January.
During his time away, Macaulay had a lot of time to reflect, as well as travel to different venues, across the country.
And it was a chance meeting during April’s NBL Playoff finals weekend in Manchester, where Macaulay made his move back into the hotseat.
“I’ve always been impressed with the whole area and the things going on,” Macaulay said. “Normally, you go to a different city to play a game and go back so you don’t get a chance to look around and see what’s going on.
“But after spending some time there, I saw what was going on and Manchester is really up and coming.
“So I had a meeting with some of the people that run the club on the board and they mentioned that there were opportunities and some sponsors came on board and we came to an agreement to see how things would go.”
Not just the head coach but Macaulay will also take on the role of general manager, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the club.
“There’s a lot of great clubs and basketball communities around Manchester and I want to build a great relationship with everybody and again, grow the significant sponsorship that’s around.
“As a city, Manchester is blessed with many incredible basketball facilities and that’s what we want the BBL and its teams to aspire to be, in terms of potential European competition.”
Despite the flying rumours of financial turmoil at the Giants that surfaced mainly on basketball message boards earlier in the year, Giants come off a successful campaign last season.
No trophies, true. But a BBL Cup final and playoff spot was seen as a plus, given the many years of missing out.
And as Manchester is a giant hotbed of hoops in the country – with the British Basketball Federation and Basketball England based there – it is screaming out for a successful professional outfit.
Departing coach Lloyd Gardner began something wonderful on the court; Macaulay now hopes to take it further.
“This isn’t necessarily about bettering last season,” Macaulay reveals. “It’s mainly about bettering the Giants brand itself.
“We have a lot of good and talented local players that deserve a chance. I think it’s no debate that Manchester should be around the top end of the BBL.
“But more importantly, it’s about making the franchise stronger, the administrative side is stronger, accounting, sales, everything that keeps a professional team ticking.”
And Macaulay has hit the ground running. Stunning the league by bringing in Rahmon Fletcher from the Newcastle Eagles and offensive juggernaut Dirk Williams from London Lions in what promises to be a new-look roster.
“It’s about building the Giants brand and of course, that means putting together a strong squad to compete,” Macaulay said.
“Manchester has a strong local basketball community and it’s vital to tap into that alongside securing some established professionals.
“We will get wins, there’s no question about that and we are aiming for playoffs. Manchester deserves regular playoff appearances.”
Giants will have an early chance to right the wrongs of last season’s playoff exit to the Bristol Flyers as they begin their campaign on September 23 away to the same side.
It won’t be until October 23 when Macaulay returns to the capital to face his old side, but he insists that there will be no emotional return.
“The London Lions franchise has changed so much, it’s a completely different team now,” Macaulay admitted.
“When we come to London, it will be nice to be back, there’s no mistaking that. But it will be business trip for us with one goal in mind and that’s to win.”
Featured photo: Mansoor Ahmed