Question and Answer : Duncan Smillie

With all the changes going on at the Rocks recently we felt it would be beneficial for fans to submit questions anonymously to new owner Duncan Smillie. We had over 100 questions submitted in 48 hours – an incredible response. Some questions we received were very similar and so we removed any obvious signs of duplication. We also merged some questions if we thought they were of a similar theme to others. If you did submit a question then hopefully it has been answered. If you feel your question(s) has been missed out completely then let us know. We have not intentionally omitted any questions.

Duncan Smillie has asked us to ensure the fans know these questions have been answered as honestly and openly as he can, that he absolutely has the best interests of the Rocks at heart and that he has no hidden agenda. He is looking to get involved in something in the city where he lives that puts something back into the community whilst at the same time hopefully being fun, exciting and successful and he hopes this comes across in his answers.

Regardless of your opinions on recent events (the world would be a boring place if we all agreed!) I’m sure we can all appreciate Duncan taking the time to answer so many questions. He responded to all questions within 24 hours.

General Questions on Your Background, Aims etc

1) How long have you been interested in basketball?

I am a recent convert, been to several games in USA and always been my favourite American sport, by a mile the most exciting option

2) Have you, or do you plan to invest any money in the Rocks other than buying the Reids’ shares

Not at this stage, my intention is to raise more money through sponsorship etc, live within our means but if there’s extra money it will go into the team

3) Why did you decide to buy into Glasgow Rocks? What is your motivation in doing so?

I wanted to be involved in something that excited me and put back into the community, this ticks both boxes

4) Are the Rocks your main business focus? What percentage?

I sit on 2 other boards as a non-exec director, no conflict with Rocks, both technology companies, my plan is to be at my desk at the emirates most days

5) What is the split in shares with you and David Low? Will David Low be taking a more active role in the club?

50/50 between myself and David, I would envisage DL being more active but I will be there pretty much every day

6) What are your short and long term ambitions and goals for the Rocks? How long will you invest before you expect to see a return? Do you see this as a long term project for you?

Short term I need to appoint a new coach and secure additional income through sponsorship. I have no expectations on any ROI, I am not here to make money but equally I am not here to lose money, you don’t know what you don’t know but I plan to be here for many years

7) Where do you see yourself in 10 years / 20 years? Still with the Rocks or moved on?

Hard to say (see above) but I certainly see myself somewhere sunny in 10/20 years

8) Where do you see the Rocks in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years? Will the Rocks have ended their very long wait for a Trophy?

I am here to win trophies and that starts next year

9) How long do you see your investment lasting with the Rocks? Is there an exit strategy if no trophies are won within a certain timeframe?

I am not looking to come into a marriage with a pre-nup or divorce terms, there is no exit strategy for me

10) You’ve only been part of the club for a matter of weeks. Is everything as you expected, or have there been any surprises?

Ian Reid was very open during our discussions and coupled with due-diligence I did there haven’t been any surprises from a business perspective, my only surprise is how empty I feel now that the season has finished and that I recently referred to a football pitch as a court! You could say I am hooked!

11) How do you answer the charge that your purchase of the Rocks is nothing more than a vanity project?

I hadn’t realised that I had been charged with this however I assure you that couldn’t be further from the truth

12) What assurances can you give to long-standing fans of the Rocks that you will develop the franchise to a new level whilst maintaining stability and longevity?

My strategy is to run the club within our means from a financial perspective, maintain our strong moral compass and put a winning team on the court

13) What are the cornerstones for building success?

Financial prudence, stability, doing the right thing and dealing with the consequences 

14) As a passionate basketball fan, where do your passions lie?

Watching an exciting winning team from Glasgow

15) Are you a sports fan who’s a businessman or a businessman who’s a sports fan?

Well I was a sports fan before I was a businessman that’s for sure so I’d plump for the former, suffice to say I enjoy sport more than I enjoy business

16) We have admired Eddie Howe at Bournemouth AFC for his education not confrontation approach. What qualities do you admire in a leader?

Someone that leads from the front showing not telling, pulls people with them from the front not pushing them from the back

17) If you could describe yourself to be like any animal which animal would it be?

A golden Labrador 

18) How do you feel about the Vengaboys?

I feel they were better at Highbury than they are at the Emirates 🙂

19) Are you for or against Scottish independence?

That is nobody’s business. I will say that I have had assurances that should Scotland come out of the UK it will have no effect on our ability to compete in the BBL

20) Do you like dogs? Do dogs like you?

Yes & Yes


Sterling Davis

21) Given your assurances of no major changes at the Rocks, and your repeated and public endorsement of Sterling as Head Coach, what reassurance can you give fans that you are in fact a man of your word?

That’s a fair question, all I can say is that my conversation with Sterling was private and that we both agreed this was the right thing for The Rocks. I have the utmost respect for Sterling and wish him the very best of luck, I mean that sincerely!

22) Can you explain the circumstances leading to the departure of Coach Sterling? Given that in your media interview shortly after your ownership was announced, you stated that Sterling would stay; then, less than a week later, it is reported that “the club would not be offering Sterling a new deal”. Why the sudden change of plan? What was the main factor in the decision for change in the coaching staff?

See above

23) Did ‘muppet’ fans screaming P45 by Monday on social media and fans forum influence your decision in sacking Coach Davis even though you publically stated twice you backed Coach D for next season

I was not aware of this and even I had been it would not and would never have an influence on my decision making on such an important matter

24) Fans would prefer owners to be a man/woman of their word, I would estimate 95%+ fans would call the decision to release Coach Davis as the wrong one AT THIS TIME (even if it were short term) after a few days longer thinking about it would you consider re-instating Coach D even for the one season you said you’d back him.

I believe we have come to the right decision (see above)

25) How do you plan to build bridges with fans who are currently feeling misled and disappointed with the manner of Sterling’s departure?

I would hope that over time I can build my own personal new bridges with fans, I understand that around 50 years collective Rocks experience (Ian, Celeste and Sterling) has gone in a short period of time, I hope that we can move forward together 

26) Sterling has improved our league position every year, as a fairly basketball novice I would have thought you would have sat back and gave him the reins for another season to see if there was any further improvement, your obviously taking advice from peers in the game? Who?

See previous answers

27) Many fans say Coach Sterling Davis in what he has achieved in his tenure as player/player-coach/coach as a legend, it’s too late in the season now but will there be some sort of testimonial game for Our departed Coach, most fans probably wish to at least say thank you

This is something I would like to think about over the summer

28) Do you not think Sterling could have won a trophy with some more investment in the bench? He’s not been far off it. Current recruitment has been good do you not think? Who has the contacts for signing new players? Coach or club?

See previous answers

29) Were you aware of the upset it would cause letting Sterling go? Why didn’t you do more to keep him on?

I was aware of the upset it would cause, I am a firm believer in doing what I think is right and then dealing with the consequences 


New Coach

30) I believe you are new to basketball, and to the BBL. With a major decision on appointing a new coach to be made, how will you go about that? Who will you be consulting with for advice, and what qualities are you looking for in our new coach

I am not a fan of doing thing by committee however I absolutely need help with this recruitment, I am not the person to make a call on a potential new coached basketball philosophy and style, I will be taking serious input from a few selected basketball people on this for sure. Qualities? Someone that is motivated to be successful and that we can afford, good player network, happy to work within our budget and embraces the community aspect of what we do at the Rocks

31) Do you have a new coach lined up or a shortlist of coaches? Is there anyone you would like in particular to see in the coaching role for the Rocks?

Nobody lined up, I want to see what/who is available to us, we have a recruitment process and I would not be wasting time and money on this process if there was someone lined up

32) Do you plan to give the new coach total control over retaining any the current squad or new signings, bearing in mind the controversy over Lee Reilly’s signing during last season when it was clear we didn’t need a player in his position and it was to benefit basketball Scotland

There are a couple of players I am trying to retain now and these were players Sterling also wanted to retain but the new coach will have total control over player recruitment beyond that

33) You have moved quickly with the coach – what can the fans expect from our next coach?

See previous answer

34) Would you intend to offer a multiyear deal to the new head coach?

I haven’t ruled anything in or out

35) What additional playing resources do you believe the new head coach will need to deliver that success?

I am not the person to answer that but I will say it is clear we need a deeper bench for next season

36) What do you envisage the make-up of the coaching and playing staff will look like for season 17/18?

See last answer


Plans for Next Season and Beyond

37) Will the current roster be retained at all? Will it be strengthened? Or will it be mostly new players? Is maintaining a strong core group of players as essential as Kieron Achara thinks it is or will you advocate a clear out every season as has been the norm?

As a fans it is important we have continuity and affinity with some players and blend that with some new guys each season

38) Will you consider appointing a player/coach?

I haven’t ruled anything in or out 

39) Will you be investing money so the rocks can have a bigger/better squad with more depth? How will the new season player budget differ from last season?

We will live within our means, if we get more money in and more season tickets sold it will go into the team

40) Do you see signing the top Scottish players to the club as a priority?

This will be for the coach to decide (also see previous answer)

41) Given that Sterling was in the process of planning for next season in terms of the team roster, where does that leave players who had been expecting to hold talks over the next few weeks?

See previous answer(s)

42) Will there be more money spent on the bench to give our first team a chance to rest but still make us a fighting force on the court at all times? It would also make the first team fight for their place.

I think I have answered this previously, we live within our means, we need a deeper bench

43) Is there a plan to deal with absentee players if the national squad qualify for the Commonwealth Games?

This is something that we will need to deal with and I am waiting clarification from Basketball Scotland and BBL on a few questions

44) Can we look at more multiyear contracts to pin down our strongest players and stop them heading off to Europe?

I am open (within reason) to anything that makes us more succesfl 

45) Do you believe that a more settled squad would make success more likely?

100% yes, despite what some may think I am a big fan of continuity 

46) In view of the Rocks being a “nearly” franchise for the last 10 years, and you have publicly stated you want “to win lots of trophies”, what do you think will give the Rocks that transition to success?

I think we are really close to being the best team in the league! We do need a deeper bench and we need to look at the marginal gains we can get in helping the team be more professional, combine that with a new approach from the coach then I believe we can be a winning franchise, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe that

47) Do you think it would benefit the Rocks if the fringe players were allowed to play in the National League (when it suits Rocks)?

I am not sure in all honesty, that is something that I would need to understand better

48) All Rocks fans want the team to have success, I take reaching a final and finishing 3rd as an achievement with a could do better on the report card, but you have stated you want to take the Rocks into Europe, Don’t you feel that should be put on the back boiler for now until domestic trophies are won first and possibly we actually have a home of our own? Is there a target of one day having our own arena/venue like the Riders?

I think I have stated that our first priority is to be the best team in the BBL before having a go at Europe but that ultimately is our goal. We have a great arena here at the Emirates but we are at a major disadvantage to someone like the Riders, we don’t get access to the discretionary sales, we have had circa 35,000 people here this season for our games, that’s a lot of hot dogs, nachos, cokes, sweets etc …….

49) What relationship will we be having with basketballScotland?

In writing this I am now in week 5 and have had 3 meetings with basketball Scotland, we need a good relationship and the good news is we are on the same page, this is something I hope to immerse myself in later in the summer, bottom line there needs to be a pathway and we are at the end of said path!

50) What are your views on the style of basketball that you would like to see the Rocks playing? Or is that something you will let the new coach decide?

For the new coach for sure, as a fan I want to see exciting winning basketball

51) How long do you think it will take us to be competitive for silverware?

For the avoidance of doubt I expect us to be competitive in all 4 competitions next year

52) How do you reconcile what you want (i.e. silverware) with what has been achievable over the past seasons?

The foundations have been laid and we are one of the better teams in the league, our infrastructure, budget and approach has made us arguably a top 4 side in the BBL, the next step is to add silverware and establish ourselves as the best team in that league, we are not far away!

53) What would constitute a successful first season?

Silverware, top 4 finish in league and play off final


General Glasgow Rocks / BBL Questions

54) You have attended a few home games since becoming co-owner. What is your impression of the game-night experience? What would you do differently? Do you anticipate making changes or do you think things are basically good? Have you new ideas to attract new fans and to keep them coming back?

I have been very impressed with the whole game experience and if we can add to that then we should, I have a few ideas and would urge you to let us have your own suggestions, our differentiator over other sports in the city is the family event, the better this is the more families will come and more to the point will come back

55) Do you have any plans to enhance the marketing of the club and increase the game day experience?

I think I have answered the second part of that question above, marketing wise we need to change the fact that The Glasgow Rocks are one of the city’s best kept secrets, the problem with marketing is that 50% works and 50% doesn’t but you don’t know which half is which, where we can we will look towards investing in marketing but as with everything we will only do that on the back of bringing more money in, chicken and egg I know

56) Are you going to start increasing the price of season tickets (or tickets, in general) since you have invested a lot of money in the club?

Any increase on prices will not be significant and certainly not to help me get any money back

57) What would you say to the fans who are holding back on renewing their season tickets among the uncertainty with not knowing what is going on with owners/coach and worried about what it means for the future?

I understand the emotional investment people have in The Rocks, all I would say is please get behind the new coach and team for next season, without fans this club is nothing, a big reason we are where we are is because of the atmosphere and noise created by Rocks fans, I have heard this first hand from owners of other teams

58) Will there be an unusual announcement of a very early signing of our new coach/player for season 17/18 so fans can say onwards to the next stage, get excited about the new season and potentially buy season tickets for the first time or renew their old ones

I would not expect to appoint a new coach before June and that is when our player recruitment will begin, I am hopeful of announcing the renewal of a player or 2 before then

59) You’re a very wealthy and successful businessman/ entrepreneur now dabbling with a sport (which some people may say a hobby) but with actions already swiftly carried out people are saying is this the Craig White of the basketball fraternity. You want success, the fans crave success so who /what type of player do you want at Rocks and is there a target of one day having our own arena/venue?

I have and never would describe myself as “a very wealthy businessman” I have been successful and I am now able to work in an environment that I am passionate about, I can also guarantee that I have not borrowed any money to fund my investment. I think I have answered the other parts of this question previously 

60) Have you experienced other bbl clubs match night?

Not first-hand only on Basketball TV which I have to say is pretty good considering there’s only one camera

61) Are you in favour of reducing the price of season tickets for season ticket holders for their loyalty and custom in supporting the club?

I believe that Season tickets are cheaper for fans renewing than they are for someone buying a for the first time

62) How do you feel you can work with the other clubs?

I want to have a good relationship with the other clubs, I think this is crucial in what is an underfunded league that needs financial investment, very important we stay close but at the same time having a passion to beat each other on the court

63) Do you think there will be a chance of getting a game with a college team from America like the riders are doing?

This is something we are looking at, I am very keen to put on a competitive game here pre-season, we are looking but if anyone can help with this too then please get in contact

64) Where do you see the rocks in terms of stature in the UK game

Through the great work done by Ian Reid, Sterling, Dan etc we have established ourselves as one of the top teams in the league, Leicester are the benchmark for now, I would argue we are then in with a small number of teams as challengers 

65) What plans do you have for the Club now that you have removed a key part of the coaching staff?

I hope I have answered this throughout my answers above

66) Are you happy with the Emirates as the home of the Rocks?

It’s a great arena, the best in the league I have been told BUT it does restrict our ability to grow our revenues and have control of the court for practice/games. I would like to have more games in the big arena but we need to be confident in selling enough tickets, the small arena has a capacity of 1600 and the bigger one 6500, big jump! Having witnessed the Trophy Final in the big arena that’s where I’d love us to be but we’d pretty much need to at least double our attendances to make it worthwhile financially and not look empty

67) Is Rocky still staying with the Rocks?

I haven’t personally met with Rocky and I am hoping that he will not be difficult, grumpy or a diva in any potential contract negotiations, seriously though hes part of that experience so I hope so!

68) How do you see the rocks being able to drive income?

For now it can only be through sponsorship, bums on seats, merchandise sales

69) Would you like to see the playoffs change to a best of 3or 5 like the NBA do or hold the trophy or cup over 1 or 2 weekends to mix the format up a bit?

Personally I would prefer a best of 3 play-off format, the format of the pre-season tournament at The O2 in London is about to be announced, very interesting!

70) What did u think to the Rocks season in 16/17?

I didn’t set the expectations so difficult for me to mark but as I have been asked the question I will give it a B-

71) Do you ever think it would be feasible to get an NBA team over for a preseason friendly?

Wow! I would love that but it would need to be competitive, perhaps a college touring team from the US would be more realistic for now but yes I would!

72) So far, what are the top 3 things you like, and don’t like, about the Rocks?

Like – noisy fans, passion of players, its Scotland v England every week

Dislike – lack of silverware, constraints on being a tenant, not enough people know about us

73) How much potential do you see for further growing the fan base? Where do you see the club going in the immediate future?

We need to grow our fan base, I have been to Braehead and they’ve got a huge fans base so we cant keep playing the “minority sport in a football city” card, we need to all get people involved, I have brought several families here for the first time and they have been blown away by the games and general experience, we need to capitalise on that 

74) We have two players recognised for their contributions in the BBL starting 5 for the season, which no other team has matched. We reached the Cup Final and ended up 3rd in the League. By what criteria do your measure a successful season?

Adding silverware and going deeper in the play offs

75) What are your feelings on the community programme? Are you still planning investing team time into community programmes, or is this taking up too much time that could be used elsewhere? The team have said the Jump2it days were good for bonding. Do you see the benefit in this?

The community work is a significant part of what we do and I don’t imagine us doing any less, remember a key driver for myself and David Low is around the community engagement, please don’t forget that

76) Are there any new sponsorship deals/partnerships in the pipeline?

I have had several meetings and several more planned to attract investment from some Glasgow companies and individuals, this needs to happen for us to move forward, if anyone can think of any individual or company would be interested in getting involved and you could make an introduction then please do so, don’t be shy, this is OUR club

77) Glasgow Tigers speedway have shown what can be done in a couple of years with fresh investment and a huge increase in media, social media and community involvement – not to mention putting together a hugely competitive team. They’ve seen crowds rise hugely as a result, and are now even more embedded in the North Glasgow community. There must be ideas from this approach which can be put into practice with the Rocks – have you got an idea of what since of these may be? Would you consider meeting with the Tigers’ ownership to learn from them and maybe get some mutual promotion on the go?

I know Gerry Facenna personally and met with him last week for this exact reason, we could learn a lot from what they have done there however I would say that the investment that has been made into The Tigers is measured in millions of pounds