Kyle Julius, head coach of Saigon Heat, is considered one of the most well-known names that Canadian basketball has ever had.
As the son of a college basketball coach, young Kyle Julius (right) spent all his childhood around the court. — Photo VBA
According to him, leading the Heat at the ongoing ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) is like running a marathon.
“Our journey is like running a marathon but it is not like a normal marathon. The Heat will have changes every kilometre. I am very excited to lead the Heat at the ABL. My goal is to build a team that plays more passionately towards the final win,” said Julius, who won the award of National Basketball League of Canada (NBL) Coach of the Year in 2017.
Under the guidance of the 38-year-old Canadian coach, the Heat aims to make it to the finals this year, after stopping in the playoffs round in the previous events.
The Heat now rank fifth out of nine teams in the ASEAN event. They started their 2018 campaign on a good note as they defeated defending champion Hong Kong Eastern 121-115 in the Southorn Stadium, Hong Kong on Tuesday and Formosa Dreamers of Chinese Taipei, 99-85, last Saturday at the Changhua Stadium.
“The primary goal for the team is to get better every single day and to be stronger, more skilled, and more conditioned. We set weekly goals; we don’t set goals for the season. We do not focus too far ahead. That way I know that we will play at a high level, fans will appreciate us, and we will win games,” Julius added.
With the aim of achieving their target, Heat, the first professional basketball team in Viet Nam based in HCM City, has recruited talented foreign players such as Maxie Esho, Mike Williams, Akeem Scott and Moses Morgan. Besides, the team also uses outstanding domestic players and overseas Vietnamese players including David Arnold, Tam Đinh, Sang Đinh and Nguyen Huynh Hai.
“We will gradually have local players play more minutes on court. This is the major focus that we are trying to realise. We, the whole organisation of Saigon Heat, want to bring developed players. So we are going to have a handful of young players that I will work with every day individually, teaching high-level basketball terminology and skills. By doing so, in two or three years, those players can start playing in the ABL team and contribute at a high level,” said Julius.
“The Heat is a team of like-minded players, who really love basketball. We create strong chemistry among the players; it is a like-minded approach among players who truly love basketball. In general, the Heat will be the team that is tough, in the best shape, has the best chemistry and will get better every day. Meanwhile, we also focus on the young players. Then, good things will happen,” said Julius, who helped London Lightning win the NBL 2016-17.
Julius said completing the marathon with a good result, his key focus is to develop his team’s own strength.
Kyle Julius is very excited to lead Saigon Heat. — Photo VBA
As the son of a college basketball coach, Julius spent his entire childhood around the court. Together with his elder brother, they woke up to the task of analysing basketball videos that their father had assigned. When he came back from work, they would hand in their work in detailed written reports. Their father would then give feedback and comment on their work. The habit of observing, analysing, taking notes and then receiving feedback from professionals helped Julius progress strongly, especially in the mental aspects.
Notebooks and pens are often good friends of sports coaches. The Heat coach is no exception. He is said to be a “note-taking addict” since he was young.
“One thing I am most proud of is how I have kept track of my basketball journey ever since I was 16. I use a whole room just for my notebooks. They are mostly notes of things I should do, should not do, and reasons why I played well or terribly. It could also be about how I moved on court and what was wrong with my shooting,” said Julius.
“When I moved to recruiting and coaching, I spent more time taking notes about my players. What they need, what they lack and what I should do to make them better, everything would be written down every day. Taking notes is so important to my life. I start my new day with taking notes and go to sleep with those,” Julius added.
Kyle Julius (right) seen at a press conference for Saigon Heat. — Photo VBA
No pain no gain
“I used to shoot 250 times before school in the morning. I also tried to find time to play in the afternoon. In Thunder Bay, Ontario, there was no indoor basketball court, and I had to go to Lakehead University at night to practice with the senior students in the cold. I always take my passion seriously. On snowy days, I tied a tyre to my waist and practiced running. When the neighbours’ lights went out, I practiced dribbling on the sidewalks. At that time, I was willing to sacrifice anything just to improve my skills,” said Julius.
Julius often uses his 3D philosophy (Determination – Dedication – Discipline) in his work. He always praises the dedication and devotion of players. In such a hard season where the Heat’s average height is not very competitive, all the players must approach the game with a new mindset: more small ball, be quicker and be tougher. He is giving out extreme training exercises to achieve this.
One of the players of Heat, Morgan considers Julius’ coaching method difficult, but believes that it helps him improve a lot.
“Julius opens my eyes to many new things, even though, you must work flat out to reach them. He is the best thing that ever happened to my basketball life,” said Morgan. — VNS