Basketball: Nuggets' demise saddens stalwarts

Carl DickelTwo of the Otago Nuggets' leading figures were distraught to learn the franchise would not be part of the 2009 National Basketball league.

Carl Dickel and Leonard King both live in Australian these days but the Nuggets remain close to their hearts.

Dickel coached the Nuggets from 1994-97 and led the team to two top four finishes. He described it "as the worst possible news".

"It is a really sad day for sport and the province," he said.

Without the Nuggets, Dickel was concerned for the profile and future of the sport in Dunedin.

"What will there to be to aspire to now? If you've got a top quality team playing at a good level then you are more likely to get young people to come along and be inspired. If you don't have that then it does take away from your sport.

"From a marketing point of view, not to have a top-level team playing in the province is a disaster and a real shame.

"I'm really sad about it, I honestly am."

King had heard the Nuggets could drop out but had hoped for the best. He greeted the news with a long sigh.

"The Nuggets were such a large part of my life for a long time."

King played for the Nuggets from 1991-98 and again in 2004. He is widely regarded as the best player in the history of the franchise.

"I had heard about it but it is really disappointing.

"My initial thought is I don't think the red flag was waved early enough. I don't know the full story, but you would expect the people of Otago to rally and make sure a team would happen."

King believed BBO had invested in the growth of the sport but questioned whether money had been wasted bringing personnel from outside of the region who were not committed for the long haul.

As for the future, King was optimistic.

"I would like to think that the game at the grassroots level will continue to be strong and continue to grow.

"Obviously it would be great to have the showcase of the Nuggets, but they're not there.

So now they need to do the next best thing and invite top coaches into the region to help coach development.

"They need to invite top New Zealand players to keep the enthusiasm high."