Master coach Brian Goorjian has enjoyed a stunning return to the NBL as the Hawks pulled off a 90-84 season-opening upset over the Brisbane Bullets at Nissan Arena.
The six-time championship-winning mentor maintained his remarkable Midas touch after the 2020 wooden spooners shocked the Bullets, snapping a 10-game losing run carried over from last season.
After spending 11 seasons coaching in China, Goorjian picked up where he left off in the NBL on Saturday.
The six-time coach of the year arrived at Brisbane with a 70 per cent winning record over a 735-game career.
In fact, Goorjian’s NBL teams made at least the semi-finals in his past 20 seasons in the competition – a golden run that included 13 grand final appearances.
Yet Goorjian appeared to face his greatest test when he took over the Hawks reins this year.
After finishing dead last with just five victories last season, the jury was out on the Hawks’ prospects following a name change, a roster overhaul and the arrival of new ownership ahead of the 2021 campaign.
The Hawks’ preparation had also been hit hard by COVID border restrictions, ensuring they had been away from their Wollongong base since Boxing Day.
But it was business as usual for Goorjian on Saturday, as the upstart Hawks snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Bullets with bench weapons Justin Simon (13 points, eight rebounds, five steals) and Emmett Naar (17 points, five assists, five rebounds) providing the spark.
“Last year this was the worst team in the league defensively so to have an 84-game on the road is good for us,” Goorjian said.
“This group is young and the common theme is they are all wanting to get better.”
Big man Sam Froling (19 points) and livewire Tyler Harvey (16 points) were also impressive for the Hawks.
Already without Matt Hodgson (calf), the Bullets’ cause was not helped by the loss of American import Orlando Johnson (two points from just 10 minutes) to an elbow injury in the first half.
Nathan Sobey (19 points) and impressive import Vic Law (17 points, 10 rebounds) stood tall for Brisbane.
“We were playing without Hodgo as well, and Orlando hurt his arm,” Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis said.
“People were playing positions they hadn’t experienced in the pre-season so there were a lot of learnings.”
Scores were locked at 23-23 at the first break before the Hawks kicked away 41-38 at halftime and 62-59 by the final interval.