The Michael Pilgrim Saga

This post is solely about Mike Pilgrim and how his tenure with the Barracudas ended prematurely. It's not my two cents on the matter, but rather compiling all of the relevant articles that covers the it. This is Mike's letter to the Barracudas fans from today's edition of Brunei Times:

Mike Pilgrim

It was a very good season an exciting and fun-filled year with the Barracudas and Brunei fans.

They say that people will remember fondly those that they leave behind, and likewise Brunei and the fans will always have a special place in my heart. I'm not trying to score brownie points here that's a sincere truth.

I never thought my time in Brunei would end so soon and never wanted it to end the way it ended. One thing I will never forget and always appreciate about my 'Bruneian family' is the way the fans always showed their love and support through the highs and lows of the season.

This, in my opinion, reflects the resilience and determination of a great country. I enjoyed being a part of a culture that graciously invited in the unfamiliar and embraced me with open arms.

I would also like to thank my ex-teammate (the Barracudas' first American import) Lonnie Jones for his patience and time he put in in Brunei. A lot has been said about him, but I just want to stress that he was indeed a positive figure in his short tenure with the Barracudas and a voice of reason among his teammates.

Lastly, I would like to thank all my fans in Brunei once again for all the support.

Terima kasih, Brunei!

American centre Mike Pilgrim used to play for Brunei's first professional basketball team, the Barracudas. Averaging 16.5 points and eight rebounds per game in the Asean Basketball League, Pilgrim was axed by the Barracudas on Jan 21, the Brunei side citing disciplinary issues for his dismissal.

No Mike, thank YOU for everything that you've done. Brunei can never repay for your services. It is a shame how things have ended, but nonetheless if ever you have the opportunity to return and play for Brunei we will welcome you back with open arms once more.

I'm sure by now you all have heard about his dismissal. It has been debated upon as well. Here's an article on the controversy that started it all:

Mike leaving Brunei

The Barracudas pushed the self-destruct button yesterday sending American import Mike Pilgrim packing with one game still to be played in the regular season of the Asean Basketball League (ABL).

The news came after the Barracudas' 95-89 defeat to the Singapore Slingers at the Indoor Stadium of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas on Wednesday.

"I thank him for his efforts and services here. Brunei was after all his first professional outing," said Benny Ang, the Barracudas manager, in an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday.

"We hope his experience in Brunei will help him become a better person and a better basketball player, too. We wish him all the best," added Ang.

Asked why Pilgrim was axed, Ang replied: "The situation just didn't work out the way we wanted it to and we needed to move on. It was a tough decision for us to make as well."

Brunei's first professional basketball team are expecting a new Australian import to replace Pilgrim on Sunday which could be their last game of the season should they lose to the Patriots and the Dragons win their match.

"The new player might not be as good as Mike but we still stand a chance to make it to the playoffs," said Ang. Pilgrim was grateful for everything that the Barracudas had done for him and also to the local fans who had supported him through out his time in the country.

"I appreciate the Barracudas for giving me a chance to play here. I have no regrets coming here and I really enjoyed being in Brunei especially with the people," said Pilgrim when met yesterday at the Brunei International Airport in Berakas.

"I learnt a lot since this was my first time to play professionally and it had been a good experience," added Pilgrim, who managed 12 points in Wednesday night's loss.

Asked on what's next, the 25-year-old American replied: "I want to spend some time with my family and plan the next step. Hopefully I'll get another job soon and who knows there might be a chance that I'll get back into the ABL with a different team if the situation is right."

That was the news that broke open the emotional floodgates and the general sentiment among the fans have largely been negative. You can't really fault them since Mike was one of the more popular player. This is the Barracudas' side of the story:

Mike's first ever game in Brunei vs Linktech

Mike Pilgrim's sudden exit from the Brunei Barracudas has evoked an emotional response from the fans, who feel that an injustice has been done.

Benny Ang, the manager of the Barracudas, has responded to the fans' outcry, telling The Brunei Times yesterday: "As the team's management we understand the fans' response (to Pilgrim's exit).

"We are sorry we have to drop him ... we know that the fans have an emotional attachment to the player," Ang said.

"We would like the fans to know that the decision was not taken in a haste. The decision to drop Pilgrim was made due to a combination of a series of events that had occurred throughout the season.

"It was due to Pilgrim's attitude ... that had led to this," he said.

"This was a decision taken with careful consideration. Mike had been given chance after chance to improve his attitude but has failed to heed all warnings fired in his direction," Ang added in a Jakarta Globe report yesterday.

The Barracudas fans cried foul over Pilgrim's dismissal which came just two days before the team's final match of the regular season.

Ang realises the situation, saying: "We know that the timing is bad but when one player isn't talking to the others, it is detrimental to the team.

"We did what we felt was the best for the team. It's just one of the things that we had to do," he added during the interview with The Brunei Times yesterday.

The Barracudas made a shock announcement on Thursday that they had released centre Pilgrim over disciplinary issues.

Pilgrim will be replaced by 6-foot-9 Simon Conn from Melbourne, Australia.

The 27-year-old Conn played for the Sandringham Sabres in the Australian Basketball League last year.

"We do not expect Conn to be a superstar (on the court), but hope that he will work hard and score on his rebound, playing as an interior defender.

"We cannot compare him to Pilgrim, who is a very talented player. Yet his dedication and work ethics must be addressed," the manager added.

Despite the 'Pilgrim issue', Ang hopes that the fans will continue to support Brunei's first professional basketball team.

"We hope that the fans will continue to support the team. We want them to understand that it was an emotional decision for us too. But it was something that we had to do," said Ang.

There you have it. The Mike Pilgrim dismissal debacle. It just goes to show that anything can happen in the world of professional sports as you live and die by the management's decisions.

1. Mike Pilgrim, Pilgrim writes to his Brunei fans, The Brunei Times, 2 February 2010
2. Yee Chun Leong, Barracudas axe Pilgrim, The Brunei Times, 22 January 2010
3. Amir Amin, The Barracudas on why Pilgrim becomes axed man, The Brunei Times 23 January 2010