Bullets GM of basketball MacKinnon's juggling act as interim head coach

Brisbane Bullets CEO Peter McLennan travelled to the United States this week for a Thursday afternoon meeting with club ownership. By the time the meeting had concluded, the decision to part ways with head coach James Duncan had been made.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between McLennan and ownership since the start of the season, with the tenure of Duncan high on the agenda.

As a result, GM of basketball Sam Mackinnon will step into the interim role, with the Bullets lacklustre 3-6 start to the season resulting in the first coaching change of NBL23.

"It's wins and losses. It's JD's second year now and while the defence had improved, we were struggling offensively and developing a style we wanted to play," Mackinnon told ESPN.

"We were ninth in the league in scoring and we've got some pretty talented players out there. Offensively we weren't executing, we lead the league in turnovers there were a few things that just weren't going well and we had a solid group of games to find a way forward. The way the owners saw it, they wanted to make a change."

Making waves over the offseason with marquee signings of Aron Baynes and Tyler Johnson, the Bullets have endured heavy scrutiny to start the season. The mounting pressure was fuelled by a practice incident between Duncan and forward D.J. Mitchell, with the first-year Bullet suspended by the club for one game.

Despite that decision, Mackinnon denies there was any fallout between the playing group and coach.

"Everyone is searching for that. I think JD is a good human being, he got on with the players fine," Mackinnon said.

"Ultimately, it wasn't working for whatever reason that is. We have some personalities, it's not like JD didn't get along with people, I just think the messaging or whatever the direction was it wasn't delivering us wins, that's how the ownership saw it."

The decision to insert Mackinnon as interim head coach is noteworthy, given the importance of his role in the front office.

"It's never nice when you're the GM and you take over as interim head coach, but I think given the assistants and where they're at in their development, I had more experience with men in the NBL.

"Just for the interim I can help bring the group together with that voice, I'm not looking to re-create the wheel or change everything, just a bit of guidance and direction while the owners do their search."

Complicating matters for Mackinnon is the ongoing search to fill the final import spot, with his time now very much occupied with running the on-court proceedings for the club. As of today, he says there is no clarity as to whether he will remain in the head coach role for the rest of the season.

"In all honesty I'm unclear as to what will happen. They are looking and want to get it right and find the right person. Right now, I'm on the ground, I love the club and I'll do whatever I can to help us get back on track in the short term.

"We'll deal with that as it comes through. Right now, my biggest thing is trying to find a player, so hopefully we can get a player. There's a bit happening but I'm up for it.

"We need a three-four ideally. It's coming down to needing the best available player as well, it's a tough market. We all want the diamond; we've got a couple of guys we are looking at. Hopefully we can find someone in the next week."

Mackinnon was informed of the decision to part ways with Duncan at 3pm on Thursday. By 8am Friday morning he was the interim head coach and by 9am he was running practice.

Tomorrow morning the team flies to New Zealand for a Sunday afternoon meeting with the red-hot Breakers.

"It's a tough ask but it's the situation we're in and I think everyone in the group wants the best for this team. Immediate discussions were about refining the offence and getting everyone on the same page.

"We could do with that import right now so the sooner we can add that guy for a bit more depth would be great. Having a top six is great so we're trying to get back to .500. I like our chances this year, we definitely haven't given up."