At a time in Irish Sport when there is a challenge with the departure of many skilled performance experts and administrators Basketball Ireland have reversed the trend with the appointment of a senior US College Coach as Head Coach for the Irish Senior Men’s team.
Better still from an Irish point of view the appointment has been made with the assistance of an innovative funding mechanism where the sport has tapped into the power of the Irish diaspora to bring talent to bear on a developing team.
Pete Strickland, a native of Maryland is no stranger to Irish Basketball having played with Neptune in Cork in the early 1980’s helping them to an undefeated regular season.
Strickland also made his coaching debut in Cork, becoming player/coach for Neptune at the age of just 23. He became well-known around the city not just for his promotion of the game throughout the local schools, but also for bringing a team of Maryland All-Stars over on a trip to Ireland.
He will now hold the position as Head Coach with Ireland for two seasons (2016/17 and 2017/18), culminating in participation in the FIBA Small Nations European Championships in 2018.
He brings an illustrious coaching pedigree to the role.
He returned to the USA in 1982 where he helped out Basketball Head Coach Mike Muzio at New York University during his time there at graduate school. He went on to become Assistant Coach at Mount St Michael Academy for a year, before becoming Assistant Coach at DeMatha Catholic High School.
After three years coaching in DeMatha, Strickland moved on to Ravenscroft High School in Rayleigh in 1987 where he landed the role of Head Coach for the Boys’ basketball team, before being lured away into the college game with Virginia Military Institute in 1988 where he was Assistant Coach alongside Head Coach Joe Cantafio.
He also held this role in both Old Dominion University with Head Coach Oliver Purnell and in his first year there, helped the Monarchs to the NCAA tournament and also mentored future Neptune stars, Ricardo Leonard and Mario Mullen.
Two years later, both Strickland and Purnell moved to the University of Dayton for four impressive years.
In 1998 he moved to Coastal Carolina as Head Coach and was named Coach of the Year in the Big South Conference (1999-2000). He stayed there until 2005, when he moved on to North Carolina State University as Assistant Coach where he stayed until 2011, before moving to George Washington University.
More recently, he has been working as a Development Consultant with De Matha High School and Sport Changes Lives and is now looking forward to beginning his new role as Ireland’s Senior Men’s Head Coach.
“I’m very excited about it. It feels great to be appointed,” he said.
“My heart was in it straight away, having played in Ireland in the 1980s with Neptune and I’ve been back and forth since. I love Irish basketball and have worked with many coaches and players here.”
“From nearly my first day in Ireland in the 1980s, I always wanted to coach the national team. I was so jealous of Bill Dooley when he had the opportunity to do it and knew it was something I wanted to do.”
“Cork and Ireland was a hot bed for basketball at the time and if we can get that kind of a fire going again, that will be exciting.”
“Wearing the green of Ireland will be a proud endeavour, and the senior Men’s and Women’s teams are two teams all underage players aspire to be on. They are the shining lights of Irish basketball and I can’t wait to see these players play smart and hard like Irish basketballers have always done.”
“The work itself will be challenging, and I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to be on the court, evaluating different players, bringing them in for training sessions, and of course, working with other coaches in Ireland.”
“I’m excited about picking a team, it’s always a daunting task but it’s going to be fun too, and there will be a lot of work between now and then. The ultimate moment will be being on the court with the final team and being ready to go and play some teams.”
“We are delighted to appoint Pete who is extremely well-known in Irish basketball circles,” added Bernard O’Byrne, Secretary general of Basketball Ireland.
“Pete brings a lot of experience to the role and will take Irish international basketball to a new level. We will support him in any way we can.”
It is a big appointment for the sport and indicative of a confidence that Ireland can compete at international level.