Photo Credit: Jacinthe LeBlanc
By: Cole Shelton
The Moncton Magic started the season out 10-0 and never looked back. The team had a plethora of NBLC veterans, solid Canadians, and rookies who can contribute. From the get-go, head coach Joe Salerno knew this team could be special.
"I think I felt when we finalized our roster I certainly knew we had the talent to compete for a championship," Salerno explained. "I felt that we had the talent to be one of the better teams in the league. Obviously, our roster had changed quite a bit over the season. Yeah, I was confident with the group we had coming out of training camp."
Why they were able to have success is the fact they had so many top players in the likes of Doug Herring Jr., Duke Mondy, among several others. Having that veteran presence was crucial to the success of the team.
"We actually have a young team as well. There is very few in between guys, we either have veterans or true rookies," Salerno said. "I think the leadership Doug Herring Jr. gave us out of the gate and then over to Corey Allmond, and Billy White, those guys who have been in the league the leadership rubs off on the rookies. I think we have had a fortunate to have a nice mix of veterans of rookies and they really have bonded over the last few months."
Although the team got off to a hot start, things weren't always perfect. Rather, the team lost several key contributors to other leagues which forced Salerno to get new players or recreate his lineup. That, in turn, resulted in the Magic playing high-level basketball to close out the season.
"I have been through it before. You know there will be changes over the season whether they are in your control or out of your control," he explained. "I certainly would have never guessed we had some of the players leave that we did this season. When you lose a Jahii Carson, a Doug Herring Jr., and a Duke Mondy all in the same season that can be tough. I think we rebounded really well so I am very pleased with how our roster is."
Meanwhile, a reason why they continued to have success is the fact that the Magic have good Canadians. Salerno knows the importance of having the Canadians play a big role, and they did exactly that on Moncton.
"I think it is was big. To be honest, I tend to forget who the Canadians are on our team," Salerno said. "It really doesn't matter. Denzell Taylor is one of the most underrated Canadians in the league with what he does for our team. Gentrey Thomas, he is a true Canadian talent. Then the veteran leadership, Jason Calliste, he has been huge for us. Our Canadian content has been great and I think you need that to have success."
Ultimately, the Magic have home court throughout the playoffs after finishing first in the league. Having home court advantage is crucial, especially with how Moncton played at home this season.
"Yeah, I think it is vital. We went 17-3 at home this year," Salerno said. "We have great fans and they are really behind the team this year. For us getting home court was one of our main goals. At the start of training camp, we had three goals. Those were, win the division, get home court throughout the playoffs and then win a championship. We are two-thirds of the way there and having home court will help us accomplish the third goal. We have been tough at home and I don't expect anything else in the playoffs."
After winning the Coach of the Year, Salerno isn't done. Rather, he wants to lead the Magic to a championship.