One of the worst-kept secrets in Sydney basketball is now public: Bob Turner is leaving the Sydney Kings. The well-recognised architect of the Kings in two eras will leave the club at the end of the month when his contract comes to an end.

Discussion of Turner’s departure has existed for over a month by insiders and on the OzHoops Boards as far back as 24 May.

The Sydney Morning Herald today made public the news with this short piece, which indicates that the decision was made by Turner himself.

Asked last night if rumours of his departure were true, Turner replied ”no comment”.

However, club spokesman Mark Wells said Turner would not be at the club next season.

”Bob’s contract expires on June 30 and he’s elected not to renew that deal,” Wells said.

”Bob’s made a major contribution to the club with all his hard work, especially last year, and he played a huge role in getting the club up to where it is today. The club obviously appreciates everything that he’s done.”

UPDATE: Further information has come to light through a Sydney Kings press release.

Of course, any time that a General Manager leaves a professional sports franchise, there is the very real likelihood that s/he has had a disagreement with the Board of the team — or “artistic differences”, as some may call it in showbiz. In short, the GM and the Board of Directors need to be on the same page as to where the club is headed — whether that be in regard to player signings, or the securing of major sponsors and the like.

Having been aware of the news for some time, I’d chosen not to publicise it, with the hope that the team would secure a replacement GM prior to the public announcement of the departure of one of the outward facing personalities of the team, linked to the “glory days” of Sydney Kings basketball. Unfortunately, it seems that a replacement has not yet been sourced.

The club confirmed the search for a new general manager would commence immediately.

The writing has been on the wall for some time however, with astute observers likely to have noticed as far back as last month that the signing of Aaron Bruce was not met with the usual combination of Turner and head coach Ian Robilliard making the announcement, but solely Moose himself. The same has applied throughout the announcements of import swingman Kevin Ratzsch and Aussie small forwards Anatoly Bose and Alex Gynes.

What does this mean for the club? Certainly, a recognised face amongst many corporate sponsors and old-time fans on game night is gone. As for what impact that has on sponsorships, that remains to be seen. Essentially, the Kings are still the product they were last year, so any change in sales would only be perception-based.

If this makes for smoother running behind the scenes with the Board, the Player Selection Committe and the like, then of course it is the right move to have been made. As for who did the pushing or the jumping, that will likely never be publicly declared. Nor should it.

Where do the Sydney Kings stand right now? In terms of playing roster, the team is anchored inside by star big man and 2010/11 MVP runner-up Julian Khazzouh. The big fella is an unstoppable beast at the NBL level. He currently is showing his wares in the USA with a selection of NBA clubs (read an interview with Khazzouh here prior to his departure) and as long as faint rumours of his breaking his contract to take up a European offer are false, the Kings will continue to have the advantage of one of the league’s elite players inside in 2011/12.

The roster is stacked at the point guard, shooting guard and small forward positions. For as many players as there are in those spots, there are question marks. In no particular order:

  • How will Luke Cooper (PG) look upon returning from injury? He was invited to Australian Boomers camp with Brett Brown, but followed that up with sub-standard performance in the Waratah League.
  • The arrival of Aaron Bruce (PG) brings much promise — however which Bruce will we see, the Boomers squad member, or the one that took a year away from the game? A full off-season of training and preparation surely will do him good. I look forward to a career best season from him.
  • Luke Martin (PG) brings stability to the backcourt, having served the Kings well in the past. Will we see any decline in his game this season and how many minutes will he be afforded by Robilliard?
  • Ben Madgen (SG) has just come off a bit-role with the Boomers and a Rookie of the Year season. Will he take an even bigger step forward in 2011/12?
  • Alex Gynes (SG/SF) and Anatoly Bose (SG/SF) are relative unknowns to many Sydney basketball observers, despite their roots in the region. Both come off successful USA college careers, with Bose in particular being a star and likely to make an impact in the NBL. How much impact they both make will be interesting to see.
  • Kevin Ratzsch (SG/SF/PF) is not the type of import that Kings fans are used to seeing. A player with a great all-round game, I have a feeling that his hustle and ability to contribute across the board will make him both a fan and coach favourite, despite the no-frills story he arrives with.

Outside of those players, Graeme Dann is currently the only player really capable of helping Khazzouh out in the front court. The Kings’ Defensive Player of the Year in 2010/11 will no doubt bring his rebounding, defensive hustle and ability to split defences off the dribble to the purple and gold again this season. The big question centres around the second import who will be secured to assist in the front court.

There is no question that a powerful four-man along the lines of Ira Clark is needed to fill that spot. As to whether that type of player is easily obtainable on the market is another story. With an impending NBA lockout, the Kings may be lucky in using an over-supply of fringe-NBA talent to their advantage in this recruiting process. Of course, not having a full-time GM on board can sometimes hinder those attempts!

In addition, the team will need a backup big man to rotate with the import, Dann and Khazzouh through the power forward and centre positions. 2010/11 captain, Ben Knight is the obvious choice for that role, although no announcements have been made to that affect as yet.

Head Coach Robilliard will be on the sidelines again this season, with assistant Tim Hudson by his side. With a full season under his belt as an NBL head coach, he will be able to stamp his persona on this club even more — focusing on his principles of teamwork and hustle.

There is plenty of time left in the NBL off-season and plenty of news yet to come. Kings fans wait eagerly, as they farewell Bob Turner. The new season tips off on October 7 as the Kings travel to Melbourne to take on the Tigers, before returning to the Kingdome on October 15 to host the 2011 Champion New Zealand Breakers.