The Saigon Heat’s last 2 seasons can be considered as the best in the franchise’s history as they were finally able to win a playoff game and finish with a winning record under the masterful handling of former head coach Kyle Julius. However, the Formosa Dreamers were able to steal away the Canadian and the Heat are left scrambling to look for a new head coach.
Enter Kevin Yurkus.
The American has been in the Asian region for quite some time now, particularly in Thailand and Vietnam. Having last worked as the head coach and general manager of the CanTho Catfish in the Vietnam Basketball Association, Yurkus is a two-time Coach of the Year in the VBA. He has also led the CanTho Catfish to back-to-back Finals appearances and a 2018 VBA championship before he was tapped by the Bangkok Storm to serve as their head coach and general manager. When the head coach position opened in Saigon, Yurkus felt that the opportunity to return to Vietnam was too good to pass up.
In an interview with the ABL, Yurkus was asked regarding his plans for the team. He credits Julius for instilling toughness and structure into the Saigon Heat and Yurkus looks to continue along this line as he sees a bright future ahead for the team. When asked about his motivation for the season, he says “our players, fans, and organization have lofty goals and we’re looking to compete for championships in the ABL.”
Yurkus’ gameplan for the Heat follows the more modern approach to the game, which involves an emphasis on pace “as we look to push the tempo and allow our players to play freely in an organized, intelligent manner.”
This is pretty much in line with how Kyle Julius ran the team in his 2 seasons with them. If this is the case for the offense, most fans have a right to be worried about their team’s defense as a pace-centric offense would tend to lean towards having a porous defense but Yurkus assures the supporters that there’s nothing to be worried about as they’ll also put a premium on good, solid ball pressure while having a sound team defense. He also mentions that the team will also be practicing plays and sets for certain gametime situations, especially during crunch time, so that they’ll be able to secure a win.
Looking to build on the continuity of last year’s team, Yurkus isn’t planning to make any drastic changes but he does want to have a lasting impact on the team this season. He was also able to share with that the Heat have designated him to be a key decision-maker, particularly with roster construction.
“Our leadership has entrusted me to construct a competitive roster and we’re doing so in a collective team approach,” Yurkus shares. “We feel as though we have a strong pool of talented local players so bringing in imports to complement our local personnel is an important factor in selecting our roster.”
A coach who has control of roster construction can only do good things as he will have the ability to identify which players are essential and which players fit the system he wishes to implement.
Under Kevin Yurkus’ guidance, the Saigon Heat are looking to have a repeat of their success last season while also having an eye at the title. He looks back fondly at his time in Vietnam (prior to his move to the Heat) and he sees that the team’s success in the ABL has the potential to boost basketball’s popularity in a country primarily known for its stellar showing in the Asian football scene.
He speaks highly of the fans who continue to support them, mentioning their importance to the team’s newfound success. “Our fans are among the most passionate and supportive of not only in Southeast Asia, but anywhere in the world,” he says.
“We need your continued support for our team throughout ABL 10.”