1 Mar 19

THE Maitland Mustangs are in turmoil after the resignation of Waratah Basketball League men’s coach David Richards and the imminent departure of general manager Chris Heath.

Richards resigned yesterday under mounting pressure after the Mustangs won just one of their first 10 games this season.

Heath is expected to do likewise tomorrow would not comment yesterday.

The Newcastle Herald has been told Heath’s exit is not directly related to Richards’s decision to step down.

‘‘I made my decision in the best interests of the team, based on my own expectations and what I delivered,’’ Richards said yesterday.

‘‘Due to my own poor performance, I decided to stand down.

‘‘I’m not sure who will take over. That is a decision for Maitland. But I think the team is capable of winning some games and I expect them to get some wins soon.’’

Maitland’s 86-72 home loss to Bankstown on Saturday was their sixth straight.

Their only victory was by one point against winless Sutherland on April 13, but five of their nine losses were by six points or less.

Speculation about Richards’s future began after the Mustangs were humbled 91-50 by arch-rivals Newcastle at Broadmeadow this month, which ensured the Hunters retained the coveted Kibble-Mallon Cup for another year.

Mustangs player Luke Boyle, assisted by older brother Adam and Maitland basketball guru Tim Mallon, said he would replace Richards on an interim basis, but the Mustangs have sounded out former Hunters coach Darren Nichols as a permanent replacement.

Nichols coached the Hunters for the past four years but resigned in February after falling out with Newcastle Basketball general manager Ivan Spyrdz and members of the board.

Spyrdz resigned a fortnight ago after almost five years in the Broadmeadow front office. He began a new job last week as general manager of Newcastle-based public relations company Eclipse Media, Events and PR.

Luke Boyle was Maitland’s player-coach last year but stepped down to concentrate on playing, which created the vacancy Richards filled.

‘‘It’s only on an interim basis at the moment with the assistance of Tim and Adam, and hopefully I won’t have to do it for too long,’’ Luke said yesterday.

‘‘I don’t want to do it forever, because I just want to worry about playing. It’s just to fill the void until we can find someone, and hopefully that will be by the end of the week.

‘‘I feel a bit sorry for him because we were a new team and he was given a pretty difficult task, and five of our losses were by six points or less.’’

The off-season departure of veterans Kieran Gleeson, Andy Allen, Matt Dick, Butch Hays and Josh Clifford meant Richards had to rebuild team led by reigning WBL Most Valuable Player Mitchell Rueter, 201cm Canadian import Robert Nortmann, Luke and Joel Boyle, Maitland stalwart Wayne Brown and several Hunters state and youth league players.

The Mustangs play Penrith and Sutherland on the road this weekend before a two-week break.

Nichols said he had spoken to the Mustangs ‘‘but I have not had an official offer’’.

If he takes the job, Nichols would almost certainly call on Newcastle stalwart Larry Davidson to be his assistant.

‘‘I have been asked to take on the position, but it’s a big decision and it’s not one I will make by myself because it impacts on my family,’’ Nichols said.

‘‘I very much want to coach again at that level, but I’m just not sure if I want to do it this soon.’’

PRESSURE: David Richards, who resigned yesterday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

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