Sleeping Giants: Will a new owner return Manchester Giants to British Basketball glory?
Jamie Edwards, owner of the Basketball club Manchester Giants, is in a full Leicester City training tracksuit when he joins the Zoom call.
“I’m busy with what I’ll call my other day job,” Jamie says with a smile, as he explains his unexpected attire.
Jamie is a ‘Performance Coach’ for world class athletes and had been invited down to Leicester’s training ground to help them prepare for the final few games of the season.
A reference from Brendan Rodgers, the Leicester City manager himself, can be found on Jamie’s LinkedIn page.
“I have seen many people in this field over the years,” it reads.
“Jamie is one of THE best.”
Jamie took over the Manchester Giants, the city’s professional basketball team, in February of last year.
Basketball in Manchester has a tumultuous history. The Giants themselves date back to 1973, but it was the Manchester United basketball team which won the city’s first national title in 1985–86.
The two clubs merged the following year and have gone through several iterations since but the Giants brand stuck.
The club’s most successful period came at the turn of the century when the Giants, at this point playing out of the Manchester Arena, won the 1999 British Basketball League Trophy and the 2000 Championship.
Just two years later the Giants folded; a lack of funding and high expenses causing a spiralling decline in fortunes.
Only a few years prior, 14,000 had attended the Giants’ opening game of the season, still the highest attendance ever recorded at a British Basketball game.
It took until 2011 for professional basketball to return to Manchester, the Giants brand once again being revived after a decade in hibernation.
The club has had little success in the modern era, only reaching the playoffs once since being reformed but, now under his ownership, Jamie has big plans for the Giants.
“My ambitions for the team are that we get better every year,” Jamie says.
“Going forward we are wanting to compete for trophies and titles, I’m not hiding that.”
It is clear when talking to Jamie that he believes basketball in Manchester has underperformed in recent years and he wants to open another chapter in the history of the club.
He made several changes after taking over to reinforce the perception that the club had entered a new era, including a complete rebrand.
“Personally, the rebrand was very important,” Jamie explains.
“Manchester is a global brand. It is one of the most important cities in Europe in terms of sport.
“You cannot have what was before [the old branding] and associate the Manchester brand of the city with the Giants.
“It’s not just changing the badge: it’s changing the energy, the culture, the standards.”
The club also moved stadiums. Having previously played out of a leisure centre in Urmston, the Giants now call the National Basketball Performance Centre in Belle Vue home, another step in Jamie’s crusade to ‘change the energy’ at the club.
“The National Basketball Performance Centre is one of the top venues in the country,” Jamie says.
“I felt being in Manchester was important for the game, for the city and for the club.”
Jamie sees the rebrand and new home as a way of boosting the club’s support. He wants to both tap into the city’s latent support, present from the club’s earlier years, and build a newer, younger fanbase.
“The club has a core of fans,” Jamie explains.
“But there are basketball enthusiasts who used to go to watch the Giants [at the arena] who over the last ten years have had no idea the Giants are back.
“Yet it would be presumptuous and lazy to just believe we can show up and people are going to come.
“It’s bringing together three elements; a great venue, an improving roster and adding great fans.”
Success has not yet been forthcoming for Jamie’s Giants over a year into his regime and an up and down 2020/21 season saw the club miss out on the playoffs once again.
“If you’d have asked me at the beginning of the season ‘would we have been battling, just to even make the playoffs?’ I’d have said no,” Jamie says.
“But progress has been the theme of the year.”
And progress is what Jamie is keen to talk about.
The team mounted a late, if unsuccessful, charge for the playoffs with some impressive performances after the highly rated Lloyd Gardener came in as Head Coach mid-season.
There was also a notable improvement in the team’s roster compared to last season, when the Giants lost all 13 games they played before the league was mercifully cancelled.
But if Manchester is to be a giant in British Basketball, it must wake up from its two-decade slumber and Jamie certainly believes he is the man to help it do so.
“Look at the world that I’m associated with,” Jamie says.
“Not just with Leicester, I’ve worked with high performing athletes all my career.”
It is those high performing levels which Jamie wants his Giants to reach.
“A successful, competitive Manchester Giants team adds to the league,” he explains.
“There is an expectation and a process that Manchester Giants are working towards.”
Only time will tell if the sleeping Manchester Giants soon wake up.