Despite it being their maiden season, Vietnam's Saigon Heat boasts one of the best stadium attendance records in the league, successfully filled up Tan Binh Stadium for every one of their home games in Season 3. During their 10 home games, not only did 2,500 screaming fans, including big name celebrities in Vietnam, shake the stadium's rafters in support of their team but for some of the matches fans had to be turned away at the door because Tan Binh was already filled to the stadium's maximum capacity.
The success of building the first ever professional basketball team in Vietnam has made Connor Nguyen, one of the Heat's owners who also serves as General Manager, excited about the ASEAN Basketball League's upcoming fourth season.
We had a chance to talk to Connor to talk about Heat's first season in the ABL.
How was your first year in the ABL?
It was a great experience. We hoped to make the playoffs so fell short of our expectations on the court. But in terms of building fan interest in the team and basketball in the country, this far exceeded our expectations. Our fans really got behind the team and there was a buzz and excitement throughout the entire city.
What was the most important lesson you learned about running a team last season?
The importance of teamwork and communication both on and off the court throughout the entire organization. Individual stars don't necessarily make up an effective and successful team.
What was the toughest challenge?
Overcoming a tough 0-7 stretch at the very beginning of the season when we were brand new and trying to establish a presence and credibility.
The Tan Binh Stadium was always full during every Heat game. How were you able to attract such a big crowd consistently?
We couldn't always control the wins and losses. What we did emphasize is the off the court product, which was just as important as on the court. We wanted to ensure an entertainment experience so our fans left feeling that we provided them a good value for their investment in money and time. Our entire supporting team worked relentlessly behind the scenes to promote the team and build awareness. I'm very proud of how the players, coaches, support staff both front and back office worked together to create the Heat phenomenon. It was a lot of hard work and our team deserves the credit.
Is the Heat already preparing for season 4?
Yes. The league is reorganizing and we're hoping that things can be restructured to provide the opportunity for each franchise to have long term viability and stability. We also continue to work on the player recruitment process as well as operational and events planning.