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One-on-one with NBLC commissioner Audley Stephenson

As the National Basketball League of Canada and it’s franchises prepare to kick off it’s 7th season next month, our Jake Beckett, caught up with the league’s new appointed Deputy Commissioner.  In our exclusive interview, Audley Stephenson shares his thoughts on the growth of the league, addresses a few topics heavily discussed among fan forums and give us a sneak peak at what we can expect for the upcoming season.

With just under a month at the helm, Audley Stephenson has welcomed a new franchise into the fold, hosted arguable the leagues most successful draft combine to date and has overseen a new league wide content strategy aimed at engaging the league’s growing fanbase.  Those sentiments are expressed in our interview below.

 


 

On the differences between a Commissioner and a Deputy Commissioner:
“Thanks for giving me the time Jake and yes this is in fact my first official interview as Deputy Commissioner.   After operating the last couple of years with just a commissioner, the board of directors made the decision to separate the day-to-day business of the league away from the responsibilities of sponsorship, sales and expansion. So as Deputy Commissioner, I am responsible for all league/basketball operations. Rulings on fines, suspensions, punishments etc all fall under the role as well.”

On how he got started with the league:
“I’m a day one guy and my involvement with NBL Canada goes all the way back to the inaugural season. I attended the inaugural draft combine at Seneca College in Toronto and the first draft at the Rogers Centre. I had lots of experience working in the basketball/media realm back when the league got started when I was an avid podcaster.  That year, the NBA was in the midst of a lockout and there was no other basketball content I could tap into so I turned my attentions to NBL Canada and got involved with the Oshawa Power as a volunteer. I came in wanting to help in any way possible and I demonstrated through hard work and determination that I was committed to the growth of the league and let’s just say that the rest is history.”

One the talent level for season seven:
“I think the upwards trend will continue to rise and fans will be delighted and entertained. Teams will simply have to get better especially when you consider the fact that both of last year’s finalists, the London Lightning and Halifax Hurricanes return with most of their rosters intact.”

On his outlook for the 2017-2018 season:
“My personal focus this season boils down to one word: consistency.  I want us as a league to deliver our product in a consistent manner that fans can rely on and try to minimize inconsistencies as much as possible. Of course you’ll always have local market flavor and teams will still have the ability to deliver our product in their own style that best suits their needs but the overall goal is a consistent fan experience.”

On the slogan “All One” and what it means for the league:
“We’re really excited about the All One theme this year and more than anything its a public declaration to our fans about the direction we’re headed into as a league. Its not possible for us to achieve our goals if its not being done together as a single entity. It’s a rather intriguing thought when you think of the competitive nature of what we do but when you think of the synchronicity of a rowing team or the well timed precision of a pair of figure skaters.  They’re done in unison, togetherness and solidarity.”

On prospective expansion teams:
“Talks are almost always ongoing and there definitely is interest from several different cities however none are are the point where we can openly discuss.”

On how the league is continues to convince young Canadian athletes to stay close to home and play professionally in Canada:
“There’s several things that can be done to keep our guys home. A couple that immediately come to mind would be to develop stronger connections to coaches at the USports level and help them understand the offerings of our league. On a larger scale, the league needs to continue to grow so that it can afford to pay players more. The window of a pro player is quite small so they need to take advantage of opportunities to make as much money as they can.”

On the leagues plan to produce a rule book:
“I know that this has been raised in the past by fans and I don’t see it happening anytime soon to be honest.  There are two main documents that govern our league from a rules standpoint. NBL Canada plays under FIBA rules and that rule book is definitely available for public review. Our operations manual contains specific information related to the business of our league in addition to rules. It’s for this reason that the ops manual won’t be shared. We do have ideas in place to better explain our rules and offer clarification but there’s no immediate plans to make that document public.”

On how the league has changed since season one:
“There’s certainly has been no shortage of change since I first got involved. NBL Canada started off with seven teams in year one and going into year seven have ten franchises with Sudbury coming next year to make it 11. I think it’s also important to point out that our Canadian content at the ownership level has also increased significantly and Canadians at the board level are the majority instead of the minority.”

On what the league is doing to attract more fans:
“There’s definitely a lot of things that can be done to attract more fans but I think much of it goes back to our league adopting that All One mentality while exhibiting consistency in how we deliver our product each and every time we have an opportunity to do so. These are just a few of the little things that can be done that can make a big difference.”

On what fans can expect for season seven:
“The way things are looking fans are going to see a lot more by way of content. There are measures being put into place to provide highlights and updates from all of our games. We’re going to be working with a brand based out of Halifax called “Undress the Jersey” to tell the stories of our great players. We’ll see a new website as well as the introduction of a league wide app to name a few. But fans should definitely expect to see the level of content rise.”