Dave Elderkin aiming to shoot Durham Wildcats to the big time
PUBLISHED: 00:16 27 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:29 20 February 2013
Whoever said sport is a young man's game? Roger Tames meets the grandfather back at the top level of the game he loves
He makes Kenny Dalglish seem a mere boy. The Liverpool manager may be back in charge at sixty but Dave Elderkin can give him a lucky seven years.
Admittedly guiding a Premier League football club is somewhat more in the sporting spotlight than being responsible for a top flight basketball team. But nobodys 110 per cent could be more full on than the man who founded Durham Wildcats, the BBLs newest club.
Elderkins career has turned full circle in more senses than one. In 1995, as owner of the Sunderland Scorpions he took the controversial decision to uproot the club and commit the cultural treason of moving to Newcastle. The Newcastle Comets were born and eventually evolved into the Eagles, the games dominant force of recent years.
The pioneers own sporting life soon saw him head south and take charge of the former London Leopards. His coaching career seemed to have run its course when he retired from his courtside beat in 2000.
Everyone involved in basketball seems to have an evangelical zeal for their game which probably comes from a constant need to sell the second most popular game in the world to a British public not brought up on the sport. Elderkin was never going to be far from a hoop, especially with two basketball mad sons.
In 2005 Dave established the Durham Club but three years later the Wildcats started to claw their way to the top of the sport. Successive promotions took the club through the second tier EBL but it was off the court where they cleared the last hurdle.
The BBL operates on a franchise system and, alongside innovative club chairman Quentin Sloper, Elderkin helped convince the League that Durham had a top flight future despite a modest seventh place finish at their own level.
So the former Sunderland Comets coach had brought the game back to Wearside - or close enough. But another circle had also turned. Elderkin had taken up the game while at Durham University and its the university that has given the Wildcats their unique pitch.
Durham has offered fully funded post graduate scholarships to American players from the prestigious college leagues, explains Elderkin. Of course they have to meet Durhams academic standards. But they play for the university and for us. Five students are now with us, plus we get vital university support such as facilities.
Despite the transatlantic recruitment, Elderkin has stayed true to his County Durham roots with six local lads on the rosta, including sons Mark and Paul. He believes theres plenty of talent to be found in the countys rural community.
Chairman Sloper is a senior university director and a vital link for the Wildcats who are manging to be financially stable on comparatively humble crowds of around 500 at their Newton Aycliffe home. On court though, Elderkin is the main man once more.
I had no thoughts of ever being a coach again but inside you never lose that desire to operate at the highest level, admitted the head coach, whose team have managed a first win from their opening five league fixtures.
I had to smile when somebody called me the Godfather of North East basketball - but I think they might have said grandfather.
Right on both counts, as it happens. The Wildcats Director of Basketball has three grandchildren to be precise.
The print version of this article appeared in the January 2012 issue of North East Life
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