August 23, 2011
London coach has the welcomed gift to gab
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
LONDON, ONT. - Oh baby, welcome to London Michael Ray Richardson.
From all long suffering media members who have been on rations when it comes to meaningful, interesting and readable quotes, Michael Ray is going to be a veritable smorgasbord of enticing comments.
Richardson was officially introduced as coach of London's National Basketball League of Canada expansion franchise Tuesday at their home, the John Labatt Centre.
The Lightning unveiled their logo, which is a lightning bolt with the interior filled with a basketball's cover.
Also at the front table were team owner Vito Frijia, general manager Taylor Brown, general manager of Tourism London John Winston, London Mayor Joe Fontana and JLC general manager Brian Ohl.
But it's Richardson who is going to be the face of this team.
A four-time NBA all-star, Richardson isn't one for beating around the bush.
"A lot of coaches like young players and will be using young players," he said. "But I have six players from my championship teams lined up. We'll be ahead of everyone else."
Richardson called Frijia "Mr. Vito" and told him if he wants to win he got the right coach.
"Not to be cocky," Richardson said. "But I've been in minor league basketball for five years coaching, been in the championship five years and won the last three. I know what I'm doing."
You have got to love that.
"We're going to have a good year," Richardson continued.
Yeah, none of this "we'll take it one day at a time" crap.
We're talking real quotes.
Richardson then left the podium and headed back to his seat, where he was greeted with a hug from Mayor Fontana. His head hit Richardson in the navel. When Fontana spoke before Richardson, he greeted the big man in Italian, a language Richardson understands, having played in Italy.
The Lightning begin play Nov. 3. There's increasing talk about the league spurring interest. Just as plentiful though is talk about whether the league can survive.
Frijia says it isn't about making money. "You have to understand this is a passion for me."
While the long-term security of the league will be a question mark throughout its first year, the good thing about Frijia's involvement is he isn't about to panic if attendance isn't immediately mind-blowing.
It's no secret he's a deep-pocketed guy as he owns Southside Group development. He has a lot of contacts in the business world and won't be relying solely on ticket sales to pay the bills.
Now some guys have deep pockets and short arms but Frijia isn't one of them. He doesn't mind spending for something he loves. The Lightning ownership group of one is stable.
The passion he has for the game was obvious as Frijia spoke. He played a lot of basketball in high school and college. He won national championships with Fanshawe College.
He grew emotional talking about having coached his own kids. He also thanked his coaches at Catholic Central and Fanshawe, Tony Farfaro and Glenn Johnston.
Frijia ticked off the four things he looks for in life before he hires someone. "Work ethic, character, honesty and smarts. (Richardson) has all four. If he didn't he wouldn't be here."
Frijia received resumes from 10 former NBA players who wanted to coach here.
Now that everyone's met everybody, the important stuff has to happen. The team will begin signing players. Richardson gave Brown a list of 10 players he wants.
Ticket prices will be announced next week. Brown said they'll be in the "$15-16 range."
With more than two months before the opener, no one is sure what the calibre will be, but judging by some of the players selected in the league's first draft last Sunday, it should be solid.
One thing we're learning quickly is in hiring Michael Ray Richardson, the Lightning got themselves a man who should be interesting to both watch and hear.