The Hawks are not the Hawks without 'Illawarra' in front of it. That's the opinion of six-time championship-winner and current Hawks mentor Brian Goorjian, who threw his full weight behind the push to see the region's name placed back alongside its NBL club.
The unprompted comments came in the aftermath to his side's gritty 90-82 win over Brisbane on Thursday night that took the franchise to a 3-0 start to the season.
Read more: Tyler Harvey stars as Hawks go 3-0
A third win in six days, all on the road, was the type of blue-collar performance the club and its fans have prided themselves on since it's foundation season in 1979.
It remains to be seen when the Hawks will next appear in Wollongong, with whispers it could be in late February prior to the NBL Cup in Melbourne, but Goorjian says it shouldn't happen without the team name restored.
"I've been thinking about it hard and it's taken some time to blurt it out but, I talked to my dad this week about what's going on here," Goorjian said.
"He's in his 90s and he's been following this. He said to me 'why the heck aren't you guys Illawarra? You don't play like Hawks, you play like Illawarra'.
"I've been thinking about it and, I've been around Chuck Harmison, Greg Hubbard, Glen Saville, Mat Campbell... these guys have earned that right. They're Illawarra and we're Illawarra. I'm feeling that strong about it now."
The NBL has copped a barrage of criticism for insisting the new ownership group that took over the franchise this season drop 'Illawarra' from the foundation club's name.
It's seen some sponsors cut ties to the club and left much of the Hawks faithful disgruntled at a time their team has been temporarily forced out of the region by the COVID chaos and its impact on the NBL season.
The club's push to have the league re-instate the name has included a membership drive, but Goorjian so vehemently adding his voice is as powerful as endorsements get in the sport of basketball.
Illawarra fans you just heard Brian express how passionate, locked in he is and how committed @thehawks players are about winning and representing the region. They are playing #SnakePit basketball and it’s exciting to watch. #NBL21https://t.co/Z0zzqzyf4E— Bruce Bolden (@BruceBolden32) January 21, 2021
"I'm getting older and I've been around the block and that [Illawarra] community's special," Goorjian said.
"It's been around longer, we've been around longer, than [Perth's] Red Army. It's time. We want to come back, we want them to fill that stadium and we want to hear 'Illawarra, Illawarra'.
"I'm proud of these guys, we've been doing it on the road, and we're really fired up to get back to Illawarra and put that uniform on in front of that crowd.
"The rest of the way, if I win every game and win the whole thing and we're still [just] 'Hawks', I haven't done my job."
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.