'Like a Disney movie': Mark Alabakov on the Bendigo Braves' perfect redemption story
The NBL1 South Coach of the Year has put his hand up for a WNBL head coach gig with a rare undefeated season
“In the back of our minds, we all knew of the heartbreaking loss,” Bendigo Braves coach Mark Alabakov tells The Pick and Roll of the team’s 2022 grand final defeat. “So, as much as the past month has been like a fairy tale Disney movie, it's very much a redemption story too.”
Credit: James Worsfold/Sports Imagery (NBL1)
Redemptions don’t get much more complete than the NBL1 season Alabakov’s team have just had. They went through the talent-laden South conference undefeated and then swept through the National Finals to complete a perfect season, making Alabakov the easy choice for Coach of the Year honours.
Alabakov says the foundations for this stunning success go back even further than last season’s near miss to the work he has put into the program since he joined back in 2019 and implemented a strong local focus. “Bendigo is such a basketball region, and having homegrown people that are a big part of the community was really the impetus for my recruiting,” he says.
He implemented a tiered recruitment approach, first looking to players from the Braves junior program. Only when there were no Braves juniors that were ready for a roster spot did he look to others from Country Victoria, and only when that tier was exhausted he expanded his search to players who had previously played for Bendigo.
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