As I continued to research the history of Leopards, I came across some interviews with former players and coaches of both versions of the club. It turns out that our statman Tony is a man of many talents, although his deep and meaningful relationship with Bob Donewald meant that you’ll have to live without those ones. The interviews took place around 2011, and we start with Chris Pullem before moving on to Billy Mims tomorrow
1. How did you end up coaching the Leopards?
Bob Donewald and I worked together in the New Jersey Nets organisation and developed a friendship over time. When Bob took his first coaching job in England with Leicester, I started following the BBL closely. Then Bob moved on and asked if I had interest in the position with Riders. I met with a representative from the club in Connecticut but we couldn’t work out a deal.
Later, the Worthing job opened and Bob called to see if I had an interest. I did. He immediately called Worthing on my behalf and I took the job. We started the season in fairly good shape, then, after a disagreement with management, I resigned from the position. I was 27 years old at the time and didn’t handle the situation properly. It was a decision I would regret for several years.
When Bob left the Leopards for an assistant coaching position with the Charlotte Hornets, we had a long phone conversation. Bob knew I wanted another opportunity to coach in the BBL so he introduced me to Ed and Annie-T Simons. After two or three conversations, we were able to agree to terms. It was an opportunity to coach, in my opinion, the greatest franchise in British Basketball!
2. How did you enjoy your time in England at the Leopards?
My wife Lisa and I talk about our time with Leopards almost every day! The good times were great. The bad times weren’t too bad either thanks to dear friends. We feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to be associated with Leopards basketball. …and Ed and Annie-T were amazing!
3. Any memorable Leopards games?
At Chester, the 44 point 4th quarter game. Chester were nearly untouchable that season. Mookie, James Hamilton, Calvin Davis, Pero Cameron, John McCord and Coach Peers were beating everyone soundly. Our game plan was to pound the ball inside off the dribble or pass. when we went down 16 in the 3rd, I was beginning to doubt our strategy…then Mookie fouled out. Next was James, then Calvin. By keeping to our game plan, we were able force Robbie to run his bench which was noticeably weaker than the all-world starting 5. At that point, it was a race against time. We knew they couldn’t stop us, but we had to make up an enormous deficit. Thanks to some terrific leadership from our English players, Martin Henlan and Carl Miller and crafty play from Rod Brown, Jason Kimbrough, and Rico Alderson, we were able to get a huge road win!
4. Do you keep in touch with any of the old Leopards?
I kept in touch with Rod Brown, Jason Kimbrough and Ravonte Dantzler for a few years but, unfortunately, we’ve fallen out of touch. I do keep up with some friends back in England, the Simon family, Dave Ryan, Sean and Lisa Worrall, and you, Tony!
5. Where did you go next after your time at the Leopards?
It was a very difficult decision to leave Leopards. But Lisa and I really wanted to start a family in the USA, so I took a Head Coaching position with Bellarmine University. Soon after, we had our first daughter, Jordana. Our second, Caroline, followed 20 months later.
6. What are you up to now?
I’m an Economic Developer in Kentucky. I have facilitated over $300mm in new development in the past three years. Apart from new development, I work with existing industry to identify opportunities to expand their business and work more efficiently. I also serve on several public policy committees at the state level and have worked as a lobbyist for various initiatives.
I’m not completely detached from basketball. I represent a few players as their agent (I’m the best type of agent…I take ZERO commission!) and hold individual instruction sessions with college athletes during their off season. Next summer, I hope to establish a brand of basketball coaching clinics and skill development camps in the UK starting with the Greater London area. It’s a dream of ours to relocate to England some day so I can get back to coaching…but it probably won’t happen until I retire!
A couple of articles about Chris here and here plus a preview of the 2001/2 season – his one campaign in charge of Leopards.