He may be without the four players that led his side to the last-ever SEABL grand final, but Launceston Tornadoes coach Derrick Washington has lost none of the bullish determination that he arrived with this time last year.
Having touched down in Launceston on Sunday, the 29-year-old fronted the media on Tuesday and was only too happy to outline his goal for the season ahead.
“You want to always get all the players under one goal and that’s obviously to win a championship,” he said.
“It’s a process for that - it’s going to be day by day, week by week and month by month - there’s going to be growing pains, but we all know the goal we want to do and we’re going to accomplish it this year.
“It’s going to be a new challenge for me, a new challenge for them, but that’s the beauty of coaching.”
Taking up his first head coaching role with the Tornadoes last season, Washington turned around a 1-4 start to lead Launceston to its equal-best finish since 1995.
With MVP Lauren Nicholson leading the charge the Tornadoes completed a shock qualifying final upset of Bendigo – the Braves’ only loss of the season – but fell to the same opponent by 23 points in the final.
Washington said he had learned plenty from that game and was keen to put his observations into practice.
“I’ve watched that game over 10 times since I’ve been back home just trying to grasp what I did wrong, where I could improve, where I could have put my players in better positions so I’m excited for it - we’ll be back there this year for sure.
“I’m itching to get back on the floor with my players and they’re excited that I’m here too.
“As soon as I arrived I got a whole bunch of text messages, Instagram messages like ‘coach, we’re excited for you to be back’ so it’s going to be very good.”
The Tornadoes have endured a turbulent off-season following the disbandment of the SEABL and the departures of star quartet Nicholson, Lauren Mansfield, Ally Wilson and Ellie Collins.
The impending arrival of new recruits Stephanie Gardner, Brittany Hodges and Stella Beck has softened the blow, but Washington is aware he will be managing a completely different team when his sides lines up in the Victorian Elite League.
Nevertheless, the achievement of last season did not go uncelebrated in Washington’s home town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when the one-time Minnesota State collegiate star guard returned in the off-season.
“My Dad was very proud of me - he’s a hall of fame coach back home, he coached me in high school, he’s in the Wisconsin basketball hall of fame,” Washington said.
“He was very proud of me and my Mum was very proud of me, my family and friends - everybody was, my WNBA coaches, my NBA coaches that know me.
“They’re proud of the accomplishments I did so they know me coming back over here I’m going to bring a good aspect to the team.”