Sport columnist SIMON ANDERSON meets the Canberra Capitals new coach Kristen Veal, whose no stranger to the team.
WHEN a coaching job becomes available in the sporting world, it isn’t like the private sector or the public service.
There is no LinkedIn ad with roles and responsibilities, a salary range and an HR contact.
When it comes to sport, an old adage is slightly tweaked: it is both what you know AND who you know.
Thankfully for the UC Capitals and the team’s fans, newly appointed head coach Kristen Veal knows plenty after a career that has spanned more than 20 years – on and off the court.
“I don’t even have a LinkedIn account!” Veal told “CityNews” when asked how she landed the Capitals’ top job.
“In the sporting world, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes knowledge, and everyone knows when there is a WNBL job up at the end of a season.
“I am pretty close with Goz [former Capitals’ coach Paul Goriss] and was so excited when he got that Atlanta appointment in the WNBA.
“We had some good discussions and I had some ideas about my career so I reached out to Graffy [UC director of sport Carrie Graf] and applied formally.”
There isn’t much Veal hasn’t achieved in the game as a player. She is a three-time WNBL champion with the Capitals, is the competition’s all-time assists leader and was a first-round WNBA draft pick in 2001.
She also has history with the Capitals as a coach, serving as an assistant to Goriss in the club’s 2019/20 championship-winning season.
Veal is hopeful that inside knowledge will make it easier for her and the playing group to hit the ground running.
“The recent connection and having an understanding of the system allows for a smoother transition, which I think is most important for the players,” said Veal.
“We’ll look to keep some consistency but there will no doubt be some change.
“The biggest part about being connected to the Caps for the last two decades is understanding the culture, the community, the legacy and the vision that the club has been about for that amount of time.”
Graf said she believed that connection to the club had Veal primed for success.
“It is a plus that she has played for this program and has been a part of the WNBL world for many, many years as an athlete, an assistant coach and in her work at the Centre of Excellence developing talent,” said Graf.
“She is more than ready and capable, she represents what this program represents and she is fresh and innovative.
“She is a coach on the way up with modern thinking and ideas, and that will be a great addition to our program.”
One of the first jobs for the new coach will be to assemble a squad that can continue to achieve the same level of success that the club is renowned for.
The WNBL free-agency period commenced at the start of this month, and the salary cap has had a marginal increase for the 2022/23 season.
Given the Capitals are coming off an appearance in the WNBL postseason, Veal would ideally like to keep a winning squad together.
“The girls only found out the night before it was announced I was taking on the role,” said Veal.
“I know there are a lot of players who have been waiting to hear who was appointed before they make their move.
“There will be players that want to test free-agency and I understand, as a former player, that courses change and it is important for them to explore the market.
“It was a surprising group that came together last year and the way they evolved throughout the season was really exciting. As people say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Veal has been working as head coach of the Women’s Program at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in Canberra, a role she will continue until August.
It’s a program she came through as a player under Phil Brown more than two decades ago, a mentor she still works closely with to this day.
Her experience working in the pathway program will no doubt have benefits for the Capitals in the years ahead.
“I am fully aware of what we have here in Canberra,” said Veal of the talent coming through the system.
“One of the key parts of our duties with UC and the WNBL is looking at how we can plug the gaps in the pathway and create a deeper stream into our junior pathway in Canberra.”
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