500 up! Today marks Sharks Coach Atiba Lyons’ 500th game at the helm of the team. Atiba is only the fourth Coach in BBL history to achieve this illustrious landmark behind such luminaries as Paul James, Rob Paternostro and Fab Flournoy.
Atiba joined the club as a player, making his debut at the EIS on 29th September 2006 in winning fashion by 85-83 over Newcastle. He contributed 15 points that day beginning a 14 year love affair with the South Yorkshire hardwood.
Coaching duties, alongside playing ones – something very few have combined and succeeded at! – were assumed on 3rd October 2008 against Everton Tigers, sadly in a 61-80 loss but it only took a further week to turn that around. Chester Jets (by 109-78) were the victims and the start of an illustrious play-calling career had begun.
2011-12 saw the uniform hung up (except for a one game cameo in 2012-13) with the full focus now on bringing silverware back to South Yorkshire.
And what a list of honours has followed! Guiding the club to the BBL Cup in 2009-10 and 2010-11, the BBL Trophy in 2013-14 and the Playoffs in 2015-16, there have been runners-up spots in the Playoffs in 2010-11 and the Trophy in 2017-18 and twice in the Championship in 2009-10 and 2013-14.
What about the man behind the stats?
He has an unbelievable work ethic. While technology has made scouting a little easier, the number of hours slogging up and down the motorways is testament to this.
He hates losing! While ever there is time left in a game, he believes he can win and he expects his team to have the same ethos.
What about his eye for talent? You can guarantee that year in, year out there will be a special player pop up on the Sharks roster. This isn’t by coincidence – due diligence is his by-word.
And there is definitely an impish sense of humour there after the serious business of basketball is done.
So when you think of Steve Dagostino dropping 35 on Mersey Tigers to claim the BBL Cup or BJ Holmes leading the underdogs to the BBL Trophy against Leicester or Mike Tuck beating his chest at the O2 Arena after guiding the Sharks to the Playoff title then you have Atiba Lyons to thank. For none of these players would be at the club if it wasn’t for Coach Lyons and his dedication over the past 499 games.
What’s next for the Brooklyn boy?
Well there have been two runners-up spots in the Championship (no pressure!). Has age mellowed him? He can still turn on the hairdryer treatment in the locker room if he feels he isn’t getting the performance he demands. But you can be assured that he will be working as hard as ever to ensure that the Sheffield Sharks maintain their proud record as one of the top teams in British basketball’s elite.
Happy 500th Coach Lyons – here’s to the next 500!