A ten-year-old Caledonia Gladiators fan has been invited to help coach his favourite basketball team after wowing the club by dressing up as head coach Gareth Murray at a game – including wearing his trademark thick beard.
Season ticket holder Max Philliban, from Falkirk, dressed up as the Gladiators’ men’s head coach at a recent game and won over Scotland’s basketball franchise with the uncanny costume.
Max donned the club’s kit and held up a coach’s clipboard, and even went as far as to wear a mock-up wig with Gareth’s distinctive facial hair and fabric sleeve tattoos in tribute to the artwork on the former GB international’s arms from his playing days at the club.
To thank Max for his ongoing support of the Caledonia Gladiators, he has now been offered the chance to support Gareth and his coaching team at an upcoming practice session.
Max said: “I’m so excited that I’m getting to train with the team – I can’t believe it. I just thought it would be funny to dress as Gareth, and happy it made him laugh when he saw me. The only bad bit was the beard kept getting stuck in my mouth.”
“I love basketball and going to see the Gladiators play. Gareth and all the team are really friendly, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them again.”
The schoolboy has been going to Caledonia Gladiators games with mum Linsey Philliban, 41, for the last three seasons after falling in love with the sport.
The Kinnaird Primary school pupil plays at under 12 level for basketball club Falkirk Fury – where Gladiators stars Jonny Bunyan and Fraser Malcolm began their career.
Max chose to dress as Gareth after the club encouraged fans to dress up for their pre-Halloween British Basketball League fixture against Leicester Riders on 29th October, which they won 84-83 in a thrilling encounter at the club’s new 1,600-seater stadium at Playsport in East Kilbride.
Head coach Gareth, 39, who was recently nominated for Coach of the Year at the annual Scottish Sports Awards, said he was touched by the amusing gesture, and was delighted to offer Max the chance to help train the club.
He said: “Everyone at the club absolutely loved Max’s costume, and it really raised a smile when I first spotted him in the crowd at our recent game. I think it gave some of the players a good laugh as well, and it was great to get a chance to chat to Max and his family after the game.”
“We’d love to have Max along to help us train for one of our upcoming games – I was joking to some of the team that he certainly looks the part as a head coach.”
Mum-of-two Linsey, who also has a younger son Connor, six, said she was thrilled with the offer and that Max had enjoyed Gareth’s passionate team talks on the club’s recent BBC documentary, Ballers: Ball or Nothing.
She said: “When we told Max he’d get the chance to train with the team, his wee face lit up – he was over the moon. Max is a massive fan – we’ve gone to all the home games for the last three seasons. We just thought it would be a good laugh for Halloween.”
“We’ve just finished watching the BBC documentary. We loved how passionate Gareth was, and he’s always been really great with Max when they’ve chatted at games.
“We started going along to games and we’ve loved it ever since. Max loves interacting with the players. The whole team are so friendly and have so much time for the fans.”
The club are currently in the process or arranging dates with Max’s family to help him train with the club.
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Following the game, Max’s story has received national coverage in publications across the UK: