The inaugural head coach of NBL Oz Gaming has been hired, with Mitchell ‘Mootyy’ Franklin set to be officially announced as the leader of the NBA 2k League expansion club.
Franklin has previous experience as a player and coach in the league, playing with the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers, before spending last season as an assistant coach with the New York Knicks.
“It’s an honour, it’s a blessing. I felt it was due and now I’m starting to realise how much pressure there is along with the honour of representing an entire nation, it’s pressure and excitement so I’m ready for it,” Franklin told ESPN.
“After being an assistant coach with Knicks gaming I thought this was something I wanted to do. It felt more natural, I’ve always been the energy guy or vocal leader of my teams, so it made sense and felt right. I started putting my name in the hat for head coaching positions. I was a finalist for the Mavericks position and then this opportunity came up.”
Initially launched in 2018, NBL Oz Gaming joins the Gen. G Tigers (Shanghai) and DUX Infinitos (Mexico City) as the teams outside of North America.
The start-up franchise is set to unearth its first rostered player this weekend at the NBA 2k League Invitational in Melbourne. The best players from across the country will compete at the event, with the overall winner earning the first playing contract for the franchise.
Franklin will spend the coming weeks and months scouting players across the world with an eye to building a highly competitive roster for the first season in the league.
“This isn’t physical, I’ve been an athlete my whole life and this isn’t like the NBL or NBA, it’s those leagues in a virtual world,” he said.
“We don’t do all the physical stuff, but you have all the mental stress, you have the practice and film sessions, so it’s very important to have a head coach that can not only demonstrate and instruct, but you have to have these five players on the same page.
“It’s easier said than done because these kids are under the pressure, under the spotlight, I can speak for it myself as a former player. It’s an awesome job, but there’s a lot of pressure, these guys are representing the NBL organisation.
“I still play the game almost every night. I don’t play as much as I used to because there are other responsibilities, but I think it’s essential. If someone is away from the team one day I can comfortably jump in and play.
“With my work, experience and accolades, I think it shows that it’s a huge part of the coaching role. I can’t speak for other coaches, but I know that I will always play at a high level or compete at least, so I know the game as well as the professional players, that falls on me and I take pride in that.”
NBL OZ Gaming is a major investment for the Australia league, with sources suggesting the purchase price for the franchise topped $10 million (AUD). While it is viewed as a long-term venture, Franklin expects to hit the ground running in the head coaching role, with playoff success on the agenda from opening night of season one.
“I’ve seen the highs and the lows and I want to help the NBL team be competitive from day one, I want to make it known with my experience and background that we aren’t here to make up numbers, we want to have playoff intentions, championship intentions. I think we’ll be overlooked by teams because we’re starting from scratch.”