Legendary basketball coach Brian Goorjian believes Australia's involvement in a EuroLeague-style international competition could be just years away, with the East Asia Super League paving the way for the next step in the direction of the game for the country.
Recently appointed as head coach of the Bay Area Dragons, Goorjian will lead the start-up franchise as a guest team in the Philippines Basketball Association Governors' Cup, while the team will also join the EASL.
The Hong Kong franchise will be based in Manila due to COVID-19 travel restrictions for the upcoming season, with Goorjian enthusiastic about his next career move after steering the Illawarra Hawks to the NBL postseason in his two-year stint with the club.
"The excitement of this new challenge, this new league, all that I feel it's going to do for Asia-Pacific and the region is huge. Not only domestically but internationally," Goorjian told ESPN's Ball and the Real World podcast.
"I just thought, it's time, the base is there to step away (from Illawarra). The next aspect was the Bay Area Dragons and knowing this league was being put together and when that opportunity came, it was about talking when the season was done. I let a little bit of time go by and once we discussed it, it sits right in my wheelhouse, it excites me."
After multiple seasons of tournament play, the EASL is set to become a fully-fledged league in 2022-23, with teams from mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.
Goorjian believes the next logical step for the NBL outside of league expansion would be to get involved with the EASL.
"It's been talked about for as long as I can remember in the NBL, where do we go with this as a league. There are 25 million people here, there's a restriction here with the popularity of basketball, where do we go with the growth?" Goorjian said.
"Now that I've spent time in Japan and China, if you have a look at Europe and what's going on there, there are similarities. Now they have country (clubs) versus country, and they call it the EuroLeague. Being in China, being in Japan, being in Australia, being able to bring this together from social media, for fans, for support in the regions, sponsorship, tv rights, the power of it is incredible.
"I'm looking at it big picture, there's no way over the next five or six years that Australia won't want to be a part of this. Now you've got a EuroLeague of the Asia-Pacific, and you've got strong domestic comp."
Goorjian praised the growth of the NBL over the last decade, with recent seasons including the incorporation of the South East Melbourne Phoenix and Tasmania JackJumpers. Both teams reached the postseason within two years.
"The NBL is so well run, the competition is fantastic, and the location is in that region. You look at us now from an international standpoint, my first Boomers window from Rose Gold, we're in Melbourne and we're playing Japan and China (next month).
"I'm not a part of the business side but I know I will be doing everything I can to promote it because I think it's a great thing for me to go from the NBL and help be a part of the growth in this next step. The EASL need it and I think the NBL and Australian basketball needs it. It makes perfect sense, and it would be so exciting."
In addition, Goorjian strongly promoted the idea of further expansion teams for the NBL, pointing to the depth of talent the country is continuing to produce.
"What's happening now from when I came across all those years ago is the top sports kids are attracted. We used to get situations where if you couldn't play football or you weren't good at cricket, basketball was an option. Now, the best athletes in Australia are attracted to basketball. It's touched all communities.
"It's strengthening but what's missing is opportunity. You've got ten teams; you need more opportunity. What's the difference between the eighties and nineties? The depth. Where you look at a bench and see a kid who played division one basketball and he can't get a uniform, he doesn't get to play. For me, you need another three or four more teams for the competition but also to service all these kids we're playing.
A hot topic throughout the season, the veteran coach would also be in favour of extending NBL games to 48 minutes, in a move that has largely been rejected due to broadcast timeslots among other issues.
"For me, it was very difficult to bring in bench players and go deep on your roster when you play the number of games you play. You can get by with eight, where if you have a 48-minute game, you have to rotate 10 or 11 over the course of the season.
"More teams, giving that an opportunity and then longer games and like I said, add an international competition and then you've got the package. We're trending that way."
You can catch the full conversation with Brian Goorjian on the Ball and the Real World Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.