Paul Goriss is a self-described optimist and this optimism is a vital attribute in the COVID-19 shutdown.
Under normal circumstances, Goriss would be in the middle of Olympic preparations with the Australian women’s basketball team as assistant coach. He would also, customarily, be engaged in recruiting players for the upcoming Women’s National Basketball League season.
But these are not normal times. Goriss, coach of the current WNBL championships, the UC Capitals, is essentially hamstrung.
The Olympics have been postponed and the WNBL free agency has been delayed. This means he can’t sign players at this stage for next season. And next season is expected to start in October.
With every player in the UC Capitals championship-winning team off-contract, the stalemate presents a significant challenge.
“It’s always an interesting prospect at the end of each season,” says Goriss, “but it’s harder to keep continuity after a successful season with an increase in player value. I prefer to keep the team together but it’s not always easy.”
Not that Goriss is complaining. Far from it.
“I look at the situation from a glass-half-full perspective. There are people a lot worse off. I’m grateful we were able to complete the season and the shutdown has allowed us to focus on online learning and reviewing players and games. A positive outlook is important and it is something I have stressed to the players. Everybody is in the same boat.”
At the moment, under the rules, the only players he can speak with are the players who were contracted to the Capitals last season. Goriss says he is in regular contact with the players, checking in on their welfare first and foremost.
The landscape in the WNBL looks set to be different post-COVID-19 with the likelihood that there will be less money available to run teams due to an expected downturn in sponsorship, coupled with the prospect of playing in front of empty stadiums.
On the upside, with a postponed Olympics, there’s a good chance that players who planned on heading overseas may instead opt to stay in Australia for another season.
The UC Capitals won’t have Olivia Epoupa or Kia Nurse in their line-up next season, and there’s the prospect that imports may not be signed because of travel restrictions. But as we all know from the experience of the past two years, the UC Capitals is a team that has demonstrated remarkable capacity to overcome adversity.