Larry Kestelman aims to lead National Basketball League rejuvenation
A few months after appearing in desperate trouble, the National Basketball League (NBL) is undergoing a major makeover.
The eight-team competition was in dire straits when the Wollongong and Townsville teams went into voluntary administration back in March.
Needing rejuvenation, businessman Larry Kestelman answered the call. Already affiliated to Melbourne United, Kestelman brought passion, vision, money and a determination to rejuvenate the ailing competition.
The Crocodiles and Hawks came out of administration and the return to the league of several quality Australian players including Chris Goulding, AJ Ogilvy and Julian Khazzouh plus Sydney's re-signing of former NBA star Josh Childress added momentum.
Taking on the role of NBL Executive Director in May, Kestelman told AAP “we've been started 60 days and we've set ourselves a target of trying to give a complete facelift of the game in 100 days and we're well and truly on the way with that.
"Our goal is to make basketball the best entertainment in sport.
"People that already love basketball feel that way, but what we want to do is attract a whole new group of fans that will love basketball not just for the game, but for the entertainment value.
"It needs to be something the teenagers find cool and sexy and want to be part of and that's not something I could say about the way the brand presented itself in the last 10 years."
On Thursday (23rd July) the NBL announced it would schedule regular season matches five days a week from Wednesday to Sunday and avoid directly competing with the start of the AFL and NRL seasons.
However, the competition still has to secure a television deal and also a naming rights sponsor for next season.
Kestleman added "I would have loved to have been doing this deal with them six months ago, the timing is very, very difficult, but we're confident that we will a deal of some sort.
"We've started a lot of conversations, but over the next 30 to 45 days it's about locking in the sponsors and the corporate partners."
Kestelman's vision and early actions received a stamp of endorsement from arguably the greatest player in NBL history, Boomers legend Andrew Gaze.
Gaze told AAP "It was a tumultuous time at the end of last season with a couple of teams going into administration and that has really brought about some significant change.
"The most significant change is the different administration of the NBL with Larry Kestelman buying a majority share and basically taking over the league.
"I think that's an encouraging sign for a lot of the clubs because it's a different formula.
"It was conceded by virtually everyone involved that more of the same was not going to get it done.
"There's a vibe, there's a feelgood time we're going through, which is unusual when you consider at the end of the season there was talk of losing two teams and perhaps being a six-team competition.
"There was a lot of doom and gloom about, but I think with a change of governance and a new ownership model for the entire league, that generates a bit of excitement.
"This injection of money with Larry taking the league in a new direction, setting up some new structures and new governance for the competition, I think it's revitalised it and hopefully it can bring about better on and off court performances."
Images: Larry Kestelman (top) - courtesy of NBL and the NBL 2014/15 season launch (below).
2nd May 2013 - BASKETBALL AUSTRALIA AND NBL TO EXPLORE DE-MERGER
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