The ink had barely dried on Brian Goorjian’s Hawks contract in late June when the club was offered $1 million from a Chinese team to buy out the master coach’s deal.
Only 15 minutes after announcing Goorjian’s return to the NBL after an 11-year hiatus, the Hawks co-owner and president Dorry Kordahi received a phone call from Goorjian’s wife Amanda about a buyout revelation.
Kordahi was driving to work at the time, all excited after securing the NBL’s most successful coach.
Suddenly, his mood shifted when he was hit between the eyes with news of a mega offer to buy out Goorjian’s contract.
“I was like, ‘Oh sh.t,” Kordahi reflected.
“I told Amanda, ‘Don’t do this to me, we’ve just announced the biggest coach signing in the history of the Hawks’.
“But there was no thought of consideration from our perspective, as much as it was a big dollar for us to recoup.
“We just couldn’t do it to the club or the Illawarra region after signing the biggest coach in history and then let him go literally half an hour later.
“So, I told Amanda as much as it is a big offer for the club to say no to, we can’t do it.
“For us, this was about more than the money that was put on the table.
“It was about building the brand, the organisation, and the trust in the community, which is worth way more than the million dollars.”
Thankfully, Goorjian felt the same way.
He was set to stay in China, but the interested club was slow in negotiations, so he opted to reach out to his long-time friend Kordahi at the Hawks.
When his return to the NBL was made official, the Chinese club responded with a big buyout, but it was too late as the master mentor had already committed.
Goorjian just wanted to give the Hawks the courtesy of asking if they would consider the buyout given the club had been placed into voluntary administration only months earlier for the second time in franchise history.
“The Hawks had no hesitations and nor did I, but I just wanted to start everything at the Hawks by being honest and laying everything on the table,” Goorjian said.
“But when the buyout came through, I didn’t know what to say, I was shocked and surprised.
“I’d just finished doing interviews after signing with the Hawks and then, bang, the buyout news hit.
“I had moved on from China in my mind and was committed to the Hawks, but I also knew the money would make a significant difference after the club went into administration.
“But I just felt like I owed it to Dorry and the ownership group to commit to the Hawks and at least present the buyout to them.
“It was too big of an offer not to – it was mind-boggling, but I was really pleased with how the Hawks handled it – I’m fortunate.”
Kordahi felt equally relived that Goorjian shared the vision of rebuilding the battling Hawks from the NBL basement.
“Brian didn’t make our job difficult, in terms of saying that he wanted to go for the bigger bucks in China,” he said.
“We would have got a million dollars and he would have earnt a lot more than what he is earning with the Hawks.
“But he was committed to the club and our relationship, which says a lot about what we are trying to build at the Hawks.”
After 11 years in China and Japan, Goorjian was ready to return to the NBL where he made his name as a coach with a record six championships.
He was also inspired by the challenge of improving the Hawks alongside Kordahi, whom he formed a close relationship with during his days at the Sydney Kings.
The pair became particularly tight through the challenging 2007 season, which resulted in Goorjian quitting the Kings not long after the NBL terminated the club when sponsor Firepower collapsed, and the franchise was unable to pay player salaries.
“So the opportunity to be back with Dorry, back in the NBL and to build something at the Hawks was really appealing,” Goorjian said.
“I’ve had nibbles in the NBL before and thought, ‘Oh, I’m not sure’, but this chance with the Hawks was something that I wanted and was excited about.
“Now I’m down here in Illawarra and in the community, it scratches me even more.
“I really want to give back to the Hawks club to achieve something special.”