Carl English is continuing to talk with the St. John’s Edge about the possibility of his playing for the National Basketball League of Canada’s expansion club — he has a second meeting scheduled with Edge head coach and de facto GM Jeff Dunlap this morning. But although the 36-year-old Patrick’s Cove native doesn’t say it outright, it’s pretty clear he believes it’s up to the team to make the next move.
“Let’s see where it goes … we’re still negotiating, so it could take a better turn than where it is right now,” English said Tuesday.
On almost every level, English playing with the Edge makes sense. He is this province’s pre-eminent basketball player, having starred at the U.S. college level before embarking on a 15-year professional career, mostly in Europe, and also being a fixture with the Canadian national men’s team for a decade and a half. He’d bring that experience and skill, and also would represent a big PR boost for the team less than a month removed from its first-ever game, all the while feeding into Newfoundland’s unique nationalism.
But he also brings monetary demands that are far from the norm in NBL Canada.
Without knowing the details, it would be fair to say English’s annual salary playing for teams in Spain, Greece and Germany over the last decade would have been more than the $150,000 (Cdn) that is the maximum an NBL Canada team can pay for its entire 12-player roster for a season.
That’s a gulf bigger than the ocean that stretches between Newfoundland and Europe.
“Let’s see where it goes … we’re still negotiating, so it could take a better turn than where it is right now.”
English said its important for him to remain “politically correct” about the NBL Canada salary cap and how exactly that enormous gap might be bridged, but did suggest he could be employed as more than a player.
“Just to play at home, where it all started for me, I think it would be great,” he said.
“But I see a lot of positives, especially if I wouldn’t just have a player’s role, if I would be involved in other things like making sure they are involved in the community.
“I see my value in what I can bring and I think anyone here knows my value and what I can bring, both around the city and for small towns, for kids and for the schools,” he continued.
“From my experience — and I have been in major markets and I’ve been with teams starting up — for a team to work in this environment, other than from the winning aspect of it, I think I have a good idea of what you need from the public to make it work. And I think I can really help there.
“I think I can bring more than just the basketball.”
The European pro season has begun, but English says he still has “irons in the fire” overseas, noting he signed in Tenerife, Spain last season after the start of the 2016-17 campaign. According to him, he’s been in discussion with three or four teams in Germany (he finished last season playing in Berlin), and with “a couple in Spain and a couple in Greece that are intriguing possibilities.
“The biggest thing is that with three kids and a wife, you are not going just anywhere,” said English, who has a nine-year-old son and daughters age seven and three.
“My résumé allows me to be picky and choosy, but then, I also demand a lot of money … and you need a team that needs a a player of my calibre.
“But family is first and foremost. You know my background and what I’ve been through,” added English, whose parents died in a house fire when he was just five. “So I put my family and my kids first. I’d say they’re 90 percent of the reason I am in this discussion (with the Edge).
“It’s never easy when you have to uproot them and they have to start in a new school and a new system. So the last couple of years, my decisions have been a lot different than in 2010 or 2012 when they were just babies and we could take them anywhere.”
English has been back in Newfoundland ever since attending the training camp of the Greek team Olympiacos.
“We were very close (on a contract) and still are and if we finalized something, I’d be on a plane to Athens within an hour,” said English.
However, he says an injury to a power forward means Olympiacos currently has a different need — English is a guard — and that “negotiations are kind of hold because they need a 4-man.”
English is well aware of the buzz surrounding the possibility of his joining the Edge. “It seems like every conversation I’ve been having is about that team, especially over the last day with their announcements (on the nickname and colours Monday),” he said.
It all comes down to whether the numbers — in terms of money — make sense for both parties.
“This is the toughest decision. Do I play here and play or do I go back overseas? That’s what we’re trying to figure out now … if we can make it work,” said English, who acknowledged that with his playing career winding down, he needs to consider his long-term future.
“You eventually have to look at those things,” he said. “Yes, I am in great shape and yes, I (can still play) at a high level. I actually think I’m probably a better shooter than I ever was.
“But what I’ve come to learn from experience is that I’m one injury from being finished.
“I’d be fine to retire now and do nothing. But I still want to be involved in basketball and this (joining the Edge) could allow me to do that and at the same time, be a nice springboard to the next chapter in my life.”