In Summary

Basketball. The Warriors long-serving athlete starts the 2017 basketball season as new assistant coach at the Kyambogo-based club, ending a 20-year playing association with them. He carries the same winning ambitions as he had as a player to coaching

KAMPALA. He actually strongly believed he still had it as he sat on Pemba Warriors bench during last year’s National Basketball League (NBL) quarterfinal playoff series against UCU Canons.
“I kept telling myself, ‘one more season,’ one more season,” Stephen Okiasi tells Daily Monitor in his first published interview since announcing he will not play again this coming season, early February.
“You sit on the bench but something inside you tells you you don’t deserve to be on that bench. You should be on court helping the team because you feel you still have it in you.”
Sam Obol was Warriors coach at the time and preferred Caesar Kizito’s craft to Okiasi’s in the 2-1 quarterfinal series defeat to UCU.
“Actually, I played a combined eight minutes in the entire series. I will never forget that.”
For once Okiasi, who had welcomed this reporter to the interview with the widest of grins amid prolonged loud laughter – as he always does -, wore a disenchanted look.
“Anyway,” he slowly reverts to the lively Okiasi as we know him, “We never really quite had rapport with the coach (Obol). I don’t know why.
“For me the disappointing thing is that he never shared with me why I was not getting playing time.
“Coaches and players need to share. Tell me what I’m doing wrong and let’s see how I can improve.
“So I was left with a lot of questions but being a senior player, I never wanted to disrupt the team. So I hung in there, quietly.”

Kept believing
Yet in his silence he never stopped believing. “So I wanted to play on one more season and prove to him and the critics that I still got it,” explains Okiasi.
“I also didn’t want to leave the scene simply because critics said ‘he is past it.’ I wanted to leave on a high.”
Yet Okiasi, now 37, was never lost on the reality. “But also, you look around and see these young, energetic boys and then accept that you are no longer what you were, that you need to give them as well.”
He had shared with Brian Gumisiriza and Ambrose Tashobya, club manager and patron respectively, how he was looking to playing at least one more season.
As if pre-planned, all expressed their wish of him transitioning to coaching the club he has spent all his life, save for a one-year break to play for Ndejje in 2013.
“So when I had a chat with Ronnie Mutebi (assistant to Obol last season), he shared the same sentiments with Ambrose and Brian.
“Now, for me, that was a compliment if they were seeing me as potentially a good coach. So we agreed to work together, with me assisting Ronnie.”
Last evening is when he officially started his job as coach at Warriors.
Okiasi did coaching certificate courses with Fuba and Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC), and has previously coached Seeta High School, Namilyango College and Vienna.
On November 7, 2015, Okiasi had posted on his Facebook page: “One day, I will coach à league team. I can’t wait.”
One year, two months and two days later, he posted again: “Well, 2017 am assistant coach for Pemba Warriors.” A two-time national champion with Warriors in 2009 and 2012, Okiasi now looks to winning the championship as a coach when the season tips off in over a month’s time.

amwanguhya@ug.nationmedia.com