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Keathley aims to continue tradition of success in Halifax

Photo Credit: National Basketball League of Canada

Since 2014, Halifax basketball has been an NBL Canada powerhouse. The organization has always seemed to bring together the right players, and more importantly the right coach, to become a heavy-hitter in both their division and in the league.

The Hurricanes and Rainmen have appeared in the previous two finalswinning the last seriesand coaches Josep Claros and Hugo Lopez were virtual locks for the Coach of the Year Award.

It seems like there could not be more pressure on the newly hired head coach Kevin Keathley as he tries to steer the Hurricanes towards another title. With the NBL Canada quickly turning into a pipeline to bigger leagues, Keathley will have the arduous job of essentially rebuilding a championship-caliber team from scratch.

The Hurricanes' only returnees so far are veteran point guard Cliff Clinkscales and forward Renaldo Dixon, and the chances of any of last year's big stars making a comeback is slim. Several of them have already signed contracts elsewhere. Still, Keathley's ultimate goal is not just to return as many players as possible.

"Selfishly, I would want all these guys back from last season but if you're rooting for their long-term success, then you hope that they can sign an overseas contract that will help elevate them financially," he remarked. "You want them to be able to take care of their family beyond basketball. Basketball won't last forever, so when they get an opportunity to make significant money, you cheer them on and wish them the best.."

At least on paper, Keathley is one of the most qualified coaches in the NBL Canada. He has spent well over a decade in minor league basketball, acting as an assistant or head coach in the American Basketball Association, Premier Basketball League, Continental Basketball Association, and even the NBA D-League.

"Over the years my teams have won on every level of the pro game," he said. "We've won two pro basketball championships and advanced to three Final Fours along the way. We've set fifteen scoring records, sent seventy players to higher level paying contracts—including two players going on to the NBA."

In 2013, Keathley coached the Ottawa SkyHawks but quickly left after a somewhat disappointing start. Even the overhauled coaching staff could not do anything special with the team, and major financial issues resulted in its folding. In Halifax, Keathley says, it is a different story. New ownership brought a winning culture to the organization last season, and the rest is history.

"Coach Lopez and his staff did an outstanding job last season," he reflected. "The ownership group and players all played a big part in developing last season's championship formula... a rising tide lifts all boats, and that's exactly what happened with last year's championship team. Everyone is benefiting from last season's success."

The future of Halifax hoops will come down to hard work, along with the combined efforts of its coaching staff and players. Even with a city looking to defend its title, the only pressure that Keathley faces will come from himself in his endeavor to put his team in a position to be successful.

"If we can work as together in the front office, as a basketball staff and as a team on the floor, everything else will take care of itself."

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