The 27-year-old play-caller was thrown in at the deep end when he took over the job with four games remaining, and although three heart-wrenching defeats in four games – along with a thrilling double overtime win at Worthing – saw the Big Cats suffer relegation, Leopards’ board of directors had no hesitation in handing him the job for next season:
“We’ve been really impressed with how Tom handled a difficult situation” said general manager Dave Ryan.
“To come in with four games to go when we were a terrible losing streak and make such a positive difference left us in no doubt that he was the right man for the job.
“He commanded respect from the players but also gave them a chance to express themselves. The team spirit in those last few games was greatly improved and they showed a lot of guts to get the win at Worthing after the heartbreak of relegation in Lancashire.
“Tom’s appointment strengthens our links with Oaklands Academy and shows the benefits of the two organisations working together.”
Baker played basketball at East Durham College before moving into coaching in 2009, and joined Oaklands Basketball Academy as Performance Analyst/Academy Coach in 2012. He graduated from University of Hertfordshire in 2012 and was Performance Analyst of England under-18 women’s team between 2012-2015. He has also been regional East under-15 and under-17 Head Coach since 2013.
Michael Ball, Oaklands’ Director of Basketball, is delighted that Baker will coach the Leopards during 2017/18: “I could see that Thomas truly enjoyed the last four games of this season and that the players and fans responded positively to his approach. I know that he is going to be looking at an exciting mix of young talent together with some experienced players.
“It is really positive that a young English coach is getting this opportunity and that more of our performance players at Oaklands College basketball academy are going to get the chance to be part of the future of the Leopards.”
There’s one more chance to watch Leopards under their new coach when Oaklands Wolves are the visitors to the Brentwood Centre on Sunday April 9, There are still a few places left on the pre-game coaching clinic (2-3.30pm), so book today!