Jacob Jackomas has spent the best part of two decades following Brian Goorjian's lead, but the master coach has taken at least one major cue from his longtime apprentice.
To some, watching Goorjian patrolling the sideline in business slacks and bright Nikes was something of a fashion crime.
To those more attuned to trends in that area, he's a pretty sharp-dressed cat. Jackomas inevitably sports the same get-up, tucked-in polo and all.
It's by design these days, but the first time he rocked the look it was by necessity, and the result of a mad dash from WEC to the old Crown Street Mall.
"We were down at the WEC for a Kings-Hawks game and it was really jumping, like we saw recently," Jackomas said.
"I was behind the bench just in my tracksuit like always. Something happened on the [coaching] staff and they just asked if I'd be front of the bench as the assistant coach.
"I didn't have any pants or a belt or anything, so I had to race up to Wollongong Central and find something to wear. I didn't have a lot of money at the time, I think I had to get mum to come down and give me some.
"I can't remember where I got them, but I never wore that pair of pants again. I didn't have any [leather] shoes either, so I was in sneakers.
"Back in those days you'd never where sneakers. Now it looks pretty good, but back in those days it looked pretty bad.
"I guess that started the whole sneaker deal."
Even nowadays, you probably wouldn't turn up to a job audition in sneakers. Good thing his grilling was brief.
"It was a short job interview, it was just 'you could do it'," Jackomas recalls.
"The next year when the question came up about staying there on the bench (assistant coach) Billy Tomlinson just said 'you're there now, you might as well stay there'."
In many ways, a willingness to simply be 'there' over and over again is really what got a quite remarkable coaching career rolling.
A self-described "not very good" player as a kid, he did, however, possess an unquenchable thirst for basketball knowledge.
Growing up a stone's throw from Sydney Comets headquarters in Alexandria, a young Jackomas was a fixture at the stadium.
"I grew up in Alexandria, near the Comets venue and the Kings trained there," he recalls.
"I had days off and I'd go in there and just watch practice. I was very fortunate (legendary coach) Tom Maher was at was at the Comets at the time.
"He really introduced me to coaching and I was coaching some junior teams. I really wanted to learn a bit more, the Kings were right there so asked if I could watch some practice.
"Billy and Goorj allowed me to and the year after that I was sitting at the end of the bench. The year after that I got that first chance [as an assistant coach].
"Goorj was happy, I got to do another season. The rest is history I guess, I ended up with Goorj for the rest of the time."
He couldn't have had any idea what "the rest" would amount to. It looked to be the end of the road just a year later when Goorjian departed the Kings amid the Firepower debacle that saw the club fold.
Next year he coached the South Dragons to his sixth championship only to watch another club he built fold. Jack of it, Goorjian headed to China, a superpower with a burgeoning love of basketball.
It saw the birth of mega clubs with bottomless pockets, but not necessarily the coaching nous to match. Little wonder six-times championship-winner Goorjian was a prized catch for Dongguan Leopards.
With "nothing much else going on" Jackomas tagged along to take the gig coaching the Leopards' junior team - something akin to an NBL1 affiliate.
To call it a culture shock would be an understatement.
"When I first arrived there were 15,000 people in the stands for the junior team. It's big over there," he said.
"I was the only foreigner head coaching a team and I was the only foreigner in the stands, so I had to grow up real quick.
"They tested you. I remember first-up they would never tell me when the game was, I had to be ready at 8 o'clock in the morning and the game might be at 8 o'clock at night.
"For our first tournament we were in a country town in China and all I really knew was that we had 14 games in eight days. It's just how it was there."
The isolation that saw the Aussie coaching contingent in each other's pockets put his coaching education on fast-track under Goorjian and Tomlinson.
"I had five or six guys in the junior team. We won some things and I went up with them [to the senior team] under Goorj," Jackomas said.
"The night-time dinners were a huge learning experience. Tom had gone there; Bruce Palmer was in charge of the NBA school there; Billy was doing the female [Leopards] team and Goorj and I were with the senior team.
"COVID was a lot like China in that you were isolated, you sort had to live together and you had to break down that coach-player barrier. I think that's how we survived so long.
"We had a good relationship with the players and dealt with all the cultural and trust issues which was even harder with interpreters and things.
"It's pretty ruthless over there and you do grow a thicker skin. I think when situations come up now I'm not as fazed as much as I might have been without that experience."
Yeah, but what about taking over from the GOAT in your first ever head coaching role? Anyone not a little fazed by that task is out of step with reality.
Professional sport of every kind is littered with really good assistant coaches exposed by rising to the top job, even those not succeeding an all-time great.
So how will he handle the shift?
"It's a good question and I don't know what it's going to be like," he says.
"I speak to coaches from all different sports and a lot of people who've made that jump and every one of them gives me a different story.
"It'll be an interesting transition. [As an assistant] I was the greatest opinion-maker in the history of the world.
"Before that Melbourne game [last season] I had a big mouth, I was 'we'll beat them'. Then when I was actually taking over it changed 'Mmm, can we beat them?'.
"I had a ton of opinions and great ideas when someone else sat on top of it. Now it's about trusting that instinct when I'm making those final decisions."
There is no perfect set-up to inherit, but the one Jackomas will walk into is pretty close.
I speak to coaches from all different sports and a lot of people who've made that jump and every one of them gives me a different story.- Jacob Jackomas
The Hawks have made the finals the past two seasons. Tyler Harvey, Sam Froling, Daniel Grida and Akoldah Gak are all under contract, lock and key.
They've pinched highly-regarded defensive stopper Wani Swaka Lo Buluk from Sydney, while there are offers on the table for marquee pair Duop Reath and Antonius Cleveland.
There's a quiet confidence that they will return to Wollongong should they choose to continue playing in the NBL.
There's a stability in the club's ownership, a rarity in the foundation club's four-decade history. It was a big part of Goorjian's decision to pass the baton.
"The continuity helps. I'm pretty thankful for the relationships I have moving into this role," Jackomas said.
"Grida spent two years out and we spent a lot of time together in the weights room and going for walks because that was my job, to make sure he was doing OK and feeling a part of it.
"Sam and I were the first two here (post-administration), so we've spent a lot of time together. Sammy's in his fourth year in the league now, so he's a man in this thing despite his age.
"Tyler's here over the off-season and he's making Wollongong home. We go to dinner all the time and have good conversations, but he also allows me to coach him.
"We've got AK (Gak), Mud (Alex Mudronja), I mean the basketball's the basketball, but I couldn't ask for a much better group of guys as a starting block, just as people.
"It was a major part of why Brian says the timing was right. It came down to having a group like that."
With head coaching roles in the NBL far from plentiful, there's a temptation to jump at the first opportunity that arises, even if it's not the best opportunity.
The Hawks gig is an enviable one in that regard. Rookie Australian coaches are often lobbed in when things need to be built again from the ground up.
This is not a situation like that but, whichever way you look at it, shoes to fill don't come much bigger than the Goorj's Nikes.
"I'm not even going try to do that," Jackomas says.
"You can't. I think the important thing is I don't change who I am. I am who I am. It's worked so far in every job I've done.
"That game I coached in Melbourne [last season] wasn't the first game I've had to take over as head coach. Every time, I've just been myself.
"I think the guys respect that and if I go in now and try to be someone else it would just be stupid.
"As far as coming out of that [Goorjian] shadow, I'll put the most pressure on myself to make sure I don't let anyone down. If we just be ourselves we can let him continue the ride from afar.
"I've always been grateful for my time because literally every year could have been the last year, every game could've been the last game. I've always had that appreciation for it.
"It's going to be another great challenge to come my way and it's going to show me who I really am."
Sports writer. Sport is my passion, rugby league my first love.
Sports writer. Sport is my passion, rugby league my first love.
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