Life at the top of the NBL isn't easier than at the bottom, insists Sydney mentor Andrew Gaze - who has experienced both positions 12 months apart.
A year ago this weekend Sydney were bottom of the ladder with a 5-16 record, with plenty of speculation over whether Gaze would keep his position the following season.
But the Kings won six of their last seven games to climb above Brisbane into seventh.
They quickly rediscovered the winning habit after dropping their first two games of the current campaign.
After Friday's 100-92 home win over NZ Breakers, Sydney lead the ladder with a 13-6 record and will stay top even if they lose Sunday's home clash with Illawarra.
"It's not easier by one single thing this year than it was last year, it's always tough,' Gaze said after Friday's game.
"You go to some real dark places when you're coaching, but that's part of it.
"Trying to find the formula both on and off the floor to extract the best out of what we've got is an ongoing challenge.
"You do your best to figure it out and you never figure it out totally, but hopefully we can continue to learn and put ourselves in a position where we can compete in the finals and then see what happens from there."
Guard Kevin Lisch top scored against the Breakers with 20 and Gaze believed the Sydney captain's third season with the club is turning out to be his most consistent.
It's Lisch's defensive prowess that excites Gaze, the NBL's all-time leading scorer.
"I'm looking at him saying 'geez, thank God I'm not playing anymore, how would you ever deal with that?'" Gaze said.
"It's incredible the intensity, the pride that he takes on the defensive end.
"The intangibles that he brings to this organisation, you can't even value it, it's just incredible the impact that he has."
Forward David Wear, who scored an NBL personal career-high of 19 against the Breakers, foreshadowed a more urgent and intense Kings side for Sunday's game than the one Illawarra upset in Wollongong last week.
'"Our energy level at the start of that game was real low and I think we're all going to be energised and ready to go come Sunday." Wear said.
The sixth-placed Breakers also face Illawarra next.
"We've got to bounce back, we're right there to make our push for the playoffs and we've got some teams that we're going to have to go to war with," Breakers coach Kevin Braswell said.
Australian Associated Press