The Winter Park Storm of the Florida Basketball Association (FBA) spent their inaugural 2019 season gaining a foothold in their home city and going through the typical growing pains you might expect from a first-year franchise. But that didn’t stop them from putting first-class products both on and off the court – and winning over the hearts of a large number of fans in the process.
Storm Coach Barry Mestel believes the winning culture starts at the top and is confident his team is fortunate in that regard. “Our owner, Ernest Jones, sets the tone by creating as much of a professional environment as possible. We have created an exciting brand of entertainment for our fans, and we are very appreciative of them for the support they’ve given us.”
The Storm is one of eight teams in the FBA, which considers itself a developmental league. “Our goal is to help our guys get opportunities to play and be seen,” said Jones, a former FBA player. “Even if they aren’t able to get to the NBA, there are many opportunities overseas for players who still want to play professionally. This is the type of player we look for; someone who is willing to work hard to do what it takes to further their careers and win games in Winter Park with the Storm.”
Jones says his players are fortunate to be coached by someone with Mestel’s resume. “I know firsthand what a fantastic teacher he is. I met him several years back while playing for a team called the Orlando Aces. After that, we crossed paths again when he was training a group of players that included a good friend of mine, Alex Hill. That gave me the opportunity to get to know Coach Mestel even better. So when the opportunity came up with the Storm and I needed a coach, he was the obvious choice. Coach has more than 40 years of experience in the game – many of which were spent at the highest level.”
Mestel began his coaching career at his alma mater in Connecticut, where he compiled a 137-17 record. He then advanced to the college ranks, coaching under the legendary Fred Barakat at Fairfield University. After stints as a head coach at the JUCO level for both men’s and women’s teams in Connecticut, Mestel moved to Florida. Soon after, he met former Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks coach Richie Adubato, then the coach of the WNBA’s New York Liberty – and the two became fast friends. Adubato invited him to the Liberty’s training camp to serve as a shooting coach. He later landed a scouting position with the Orlando Magic, working with then-General Manager John Gabriel and Director of Scouting Gary Brokaw.
Mestel and Adubato also co-host a weekly basketball-themed radio show called Full-Court Coverage, Monday evenings at 7pm EST on 96.9 FM in Orlando. The show is currently in its sixth year.
“We have an acronym we abide by with the Storm: ACE. It stands for Attitude, Commitment and Effort. We play for each other and because of that, it doesn’t matter who does the scoring as long as we put the ball through the hoop,” said Mestel, describing his coaching style. “Ernest and I expect complete buy-in from the players. If they cannot commit to the team 100% they will not play. Also, we make practices more demanding that any game could ever be. No team will outwork us and no team will be in better shape.”
Meanwhile, it’s up to Mestel to put his players in the best position to win. “To get positive on-court results from a team, a coach has to look at the players he has and determine what each one does best,” Mestel said. “Then, he exploits those abilities and makes sure what the players do well becomes part of the offensive and defensive game plans.”
The Storm, who play their games at the Winter Park Community Center, plan to continue being active participants in helping the city’s kids become better players – and better young people – once the COVID period is officially over. “We will be re-starting our Youth Basketball Academy, which helps not only improve their athletic skills, but also their life skills,” Mestel explained. “Once a game is over the scoreboard always goes back to 0-0 … but what you learn from the game of basketball – both on and off the court – these are lessons that add up for a lifetime. Whatever we can do off the court to positively influence young lives is just as important as what we do on the court.”
The Winter Park Storm is a Minor League Basketball Team playing in the Florida Basketball Association (FBA). The Storm is committed to having a strong sense of community and service, while upholding a standard of excellence throughout our organization. For more information on the team, please visit www.thestormhoops.com.