The Saigon Heat has made a coaching change early in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) offseason, bringing in two-time Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) coach of the year Kevin Yurkus.

Yurkus will be replacing Canadian head coach Kyle Julius, who had led the Heat to their first regular season winning record and first playoff victory this past year, and back-to-back postseason appearances in his two years as head coach.

While Julius have left sizable shoes to fill, Yurkus is a proven veteran in the Southeast Asian basketball circuit after having previously coached Madgoat Basketball Club in Thailand for three seasons and leading Cantho Catfish to two straight Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) finals appearances that led to a championship in 2018.

During the past year, Yurkus was tapped to be both general manager and head coach of upstart basketball club Bangkok Storm, but an opportunity to coach the Heat proved to be too good to pass up.

“I remained close to basketball in Vietnam (while in Bangkok). I continued my position as Director of Basketball for the Vietnam National Teams and made frequent return visits,” he continued. “When the position opened with Saigon Heat, I fortunately in a good position and things worked out to bring me back,” shared Yurkus.

The Storm previously made their intent to join the upcoming tenth season of the ABL public, but their status is still uncertain at this point.

“I have nothing but the highest love and admiration for the basketball community in Vietnam. Everything from the players to leadership and the fans. It’s a very special place and I’ve loved every minute of my time here.”

After claiming their first playoff game victory during the past season, the logical next step up the ladder is to win their first playoff series, with the main goal set on winning a title.

“The ABL is high level league with many great teams and players. There are no easy games. The goal for any team is to win a championship, and although it is a big challenge, we set our goals on winning championships.”

The Saigon Heat is currently playing in the VBA, but with a noticeably different roster and is coached by deputy David Singleton.

Meanwhile, Yurkus is expected to join the team when the upcoming season of the ABL opens sometime around November.

Follow us on Twitter at @aseansports1.