Joe Salerno said Tuesday night owner Duncan Shaw told him on May 24, the day after the Storm’s season ended, the status of the team was uncertain for next season and he was no longer able to continue to honour Salerno’s contract, which was to expire Sept. 9.
“It’s a really unfortunate situation to be put in, but it’s unfortunate because I’ve had a great relationship with the Storm and with Duncan. I’m obviously very grateful for everything he’s provided for myself and my family over the years,” Salerno said.
“I certainly wanted to continue to be the head coach of the Island Storm and I wanted to win a championship so bad for that franchise and for the Island.”
Salerno said Shaw indicated he hoped Salerno would be able to stay around for a while to see what happened.
But Salerno has a young family to provide for and said he has already spoken with three National Basketball League of Canada teams in the past week.
Shaw owned Sherwood Building Supplies Ltd., which filed for bankruptcy last month, but he has said the bankruptcy will not impact the Storm.
“We don't have any intention to do anything drastic to the Storm at the moment ... I have a lot of time and energy invested in that,” Shaw told The Guardian on May 31.
A call to Shaw on Tuesday night was not returned by press time.
Salerno said he had heard rumblings about Shaw’s other business and asked for the May 24 meeting. Salerno said Shaw was upfront and honest with him.
“I would have loved to stay with the Storm,” Salerno said. “The situation … is not allowing that to happen.”
Salerno became the NBL’s all-time winningest coach in league history on Jan. 29, 2016, when he surpassed Michael Ray-Richardson with his 102nd NBL Canada win. He guided the Storm to four conference finals in six seasons and two league final appearances.
He hasn’t had time to reflect on the accomplishments.
“This news was very abrupt. It surprised me,” admitted Salerno, who also served as the Storm’s vice-president of player personnel. “It was a good run. We had a lot of really, really successful seasons.”
Salerno said the Island has become home for him and his family and they have made many great friendships. The bench boss said he is grateful for the fans who support him and the team through the good and bad years.
“A lot of people really stuck by my side the entire time. I’m just very grateful and thankful for those people and I know my family is, too.”