THE Last Dance was the right programme at the wrong time for Glasgow Rocks owner Duncan Smillie. The Netflix documentary on Michael Jordan and his all-conquering Chicago Bulls team quickly became one of the biggest hits of lockdown.

The only problem in Smillie’s eyes was that the series had sparked interest in basketball during a period when Scotland’s only professional team couldn’t take advantage.

“When The Last Dance was on there were so many people suddenly talking to me about basketball who had never spoken to me about the sport before,” he revealed. “They were all choking to go to a game on the back of it. I was just gutted we didn’t have any fixtures on at that time.”

Domestic basketball will be back soon enough, however, with Smillie and his staff putting plans in place for the proposed return of the British Basketball League in the autumn.

“We’ve started our marketing, we’ve appointed a player-coach and are starting to recruit players,” he added.“I don’t think we’re shooting for the moon when we say there’s a distinct possibility we could be going again in October.

“The early finish to last season hit us in the pocket and the reality is there will be less money coming in next season. We’re looking at 30 to 40 per cent less income. But we spend what we earn at the Rocks. The business is flexible and we can adjust up and down as needed.”

Things will be different on and off the court. Head coach Vincent Lavandier has departed to be replaced by Great Britain veteran Gareth Murray who will combine playing with coaching in the season ahead.

“We were gutted to lose Vincent but that was just the harsh reality of the financial implications of Covid,” admitted Smillie. “He was the best coach in the league in my opinion. But if we had him again next year we would have had very little budget for players.

“Gareth has always wanted to be our coach at the Rocks and he’s very excited about it. It will be a tough role but it’s a good fit for both us and him.”

The squad roster will look different, too, with travel restrictions likely to reduce the number of North American imports.

“We haven’t looked at a single player from the US yet,” he added. “I think we will but we’re not clear on what visas will look like for them.

“We would normally have five or six Scottish guys, three Americans and two non-British passport holders.

“It might be for the new season we’re looking at six or seven Scottish guys and three or four EU players – or Americans with British passports – who don’t need visas and could come in quicker when we need them.

“That might be easier than dealing with players from the States when we don’t know what’s going on there.”

The Rocks regularly play to sell-out crowds at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena but that won’t be possible next season.

Not for a while at least.

“All things being equal virus-wise there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be playing in front of a socially-distanced audience from September,” added Smillie who also sits on the board of Partick Thistle. “How many we can fit in, though, will depend on legislation.

“We have two arenas there. One has just short of 2000 seats and the other has around 7000 seats. At two metres social distancing, the 2000-seater has a capacity of less than 200 single seats. And the bigger arena can fit in less than 1000.

“But at one metre – and if you make a few assumptions about couples and families being able to sit together – then you start to get to a point where you could get 600-700

in the smaller arena and a couple of thousand in the bigger one. That then makes it viable for us financially.”

Not being awarded the championship when last season was brought to a premature conclusion remains a frustration with Smillie but he has moved on.

The key now is to build a new team capable of competing at the top end of the league again, although simply surviving as a club will be the number one objective.

“I’ve moved on from it now and we’ll never know what might have happened,” he added. “We hadn’t won it for 20 years and my gut feeling is we would have gone on to do it. But it’s done now. I’m not crying into my pillow about it.

“It’s about what we do when we get back on the court next season. I’m quite bullish about our prospects. But the bottom line is it will be about survival as much as anything else for us and a lot of other clubs.”