Fleur McIntyre. (Image: Sydney Kings media; Design: Will Cuckson)

Basketball has always been part of Fleur Mcintyre’s life. After an unexpected phone call from long-time friend Luc Longley, she soon found herself as a vital part of one of Australia’s biggest sporting franchises – the Sydney Kings as an assistant coach.

McIntyre was working at the University of Notre Dame for 16 years in the sports science department when she felt she needed a change. Not sure at the time what it would look like, a chance call from long-time friend and Australian basketball legend Luc Longley set her on a path that she wasn’t expecting.

“That initial phone call was just shock and excitement, and then thinking you can’t do this, you can’t pack up everything and leave everyone I know and love,” McIntyre told The Inner Sanctum.

After a 270-game playing career with the Cockburn Tigers in Western Australia, McIntyre took on various coaching roles. Returning to Cockburn coaching at NBL1 level, the Perth Lynx in the WNBL, and various WA state teams.

The coaching credentials were always there for McIntyre, but a full-time move to a coaching role was not something that she really ever considered.

“I was in shock that he (Longley) thought of me, the Sydney Kings are such a big organisation. I was taken aback that they were even looking at me for this job,” McIntyre said.

“It sounds silly now that I am doing it [coaching] but [I’m] shocked that moving into being an actual coach after 20 years of coaching on top of my other job was a possibility.

“It’s really cool to say I’m a coach now, that’s my job, it’s what I do for a job.”

It is a friendship that the pair have shared for many years, with them both being part of the Western Australian basketball community. Longley became an NBA championship player with the Chicago Bulls and is now also part of the Sydney Kings organisation.

After taking the initial call from Longley, McIntyre took some time to grasp the decision ahead of her. A move from her native Western Australia and completely changing her life in the middle of a pandemic was not the easiest decision.

But when the Sydney Kings come knocking, it was an offer too hard to refuse. Fittingly it was advice from Longley that helped her take the risk and join the Kings.

“Luc tells me all the time life is an adventure. I am very glad that I embraced Luc’s advice and made the most of Sydney through the havoc and chaos of COVID and the good and the bad times,” McIntyre said.

“It ended up being something incredibly special.”

Once McIntyre got to Sydney, the season turned out better than she could have ever expected, with the Kings taking out the 2022 NBL championship. McIntyre created history by being the first woman to win an NBL championship ring.

Despite the glory of a championship, it was the everyday things across the season that resonated with McIntyre the most.

“Everyone sees the championship, the celebration, the confetti, and that was absolutely amazing,” she said.

“The things I remember the most are the small moments, being in the cars on road trips and me getting us lost and taking the wrong direction, us all laughing and sitting over team dinners and sharing a red wine, laughing and telling stories.

“That is the stuff that stays with me, rather than the big stuff.

“The little moments where it was just the staff and the boys are the things that stay with me the most and the things I really hold dearly.”

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The Kings were almost written off early in the season, starting the season with a record of three wins and six losses after nine games. They battled injuries to big-name stars including MVP Jaylen Adams, but as the season went on they showed resilience to walk away as champions.

With a franchise like the Sydney Kings, anyone who was doubting them should have known better. As their season was on the line, the Kings began to lift and went on a 13-game win streak.

In the depths of the season, McIntyre said she could feel the tides beginning to turn Sydney’s way.

”The one for me where I thought we could win it all (the championship) was playing Wollongong up in Wollongong. We were going to be fatigued it was our third game in six days,” she said.

“Jaylen Adams went down with cramp in overtime, DJ Vasiljevic went off for 30 (points) and we won in overtime. After that game, at that moment, I thought ‘we are going to be hard in a series’.”

As the season went on, Sydney Kings head coach Chase Buford started to garner attention for his passionate displays on the sideline. McIntyre had a front-row seat to his coaching style and gave an insight into what it is really like working side by side with him.

“People are quick to have a go at him [Chase Buford] because he is not behaving the way they want him to. But for me, Chase’s passion and energy is what makes him, him and it is also what makes him a great coach,” she said.

“I love working with someone who is so passionate and energetic about what he does. I am a huge believer that when you are a coach in any capacity, you have to be you and fitting into a cookie cutter mould of what everyone expects you to be doesn’t work. I love that he embraces it.

“There was a lot of pressure coaching the Sydney Kings, so I didn’t envy him at times on that sideline with what probably feels like the world on his shoulders. I don’t think he got enough credit for how unbelievably smart he is with his X’s and O’s, his concepts, and styles of play he implemented.”

A journey like McIntyre’s wouldn’t come about without a strong support network that has helped shape her and build the skill set that has led her to this point. She explains that her time at Notre Dame helped prepare her for the NBL.

“I was really lucky when I worked at the University (of Notre Dame), I had all female leaders and management and that was unreal to me to be able to be led by females, it was all I ever knew,” she said.

“They instilled in me a really strong belief that I could do anything, and that if I was confident enough and put the work in, I could pursue anything that I wanted.”

As a female in a male-dominated environment, McIntyre said she feels lucky that she is well supported in her working environment but doesn’t discount the importance of speaking with other female coaches and learning from each other.

One person, in particular, is fellow Australian Liz Mills who is the first female to coach in the Basketball Africa League. McIntyre and Mills have started speaking with each other to help create a network for female coaches.

“Women supporting women is a huge area, there’s not a lot of us (women) working in men’s sport, so if we are able to create those networks where it’s just peer support. It doesn’t have to be anything formal but being able to check in and support each other is really important.” McIntrye said.

“I think women, in particular, are filled with self-doubt and this sense of imposter syndrome way more than men, so having other women say ‘no you can do this’ is a really powerful thing.”

With the 2022/23 NBL season starting on October 1, McIntyre explains what she is going to be focusing on as she heads into her second season with the Kings.

“I really want to just keep developing my craft as an assistant coach, trying to learn under Chase (Buford) and get better in terms of different aspects of leading people, coaching people, and game sets,” she said.

As a group, the Kings will come into the season looking to defend their championship but as McIntyre explains coaching isn’t just about what happens on the court. The development of rosters and individuals off the court makes up the role of a coach.

“Collectively our job as individuals is to help other individuals get better, to help our players achieve their goals. That goal may sometimes go beyond the NBL and go to the NBA or Europe but creating an environment where they can achieve those individual goals is part of the plan,” she said.

Fleur McIntyre and the Sydney Kings will kick off their title defence on October 1 when they take on the Illawarra Hawks in Round 1 of NBL23.

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