First some history. Back when Nicola and I were living in Melbourne were were fans of both the South East Melbourne Magic and the Victoria Titans (wikipedia pages need creating) basketball teams that played in the National Basketball League. The South East Melbourne Magic became the Victoria Titans when the club merged with the North Melbourne Giants. The union wasn’t that comfortable and many of the fans stop supporting the new team and eventually the club folded.
As a Magic fan the common thread running through the teams was a core of good team players recruited by coach Brian Goorjian. Brian was originally a US-import player for the Melbourne Tigers before he moved on to coaching.
After the Titans folded he replaced Brett Brown (former coach of the Giants) as coach of the Sydney Kings who led the team to victory three years running (except for this year where they lost the final to the Tigers). Many of the Titans/Magic fans followed Goorjian to the Kings for his ability to build a quality team you could really get behind.
Good Thing Phil Smyth was Sacked
It was Brian’s recruiting ability and general reputation amongst the players that made him the ideal replacement for the national coach position after Phil Smyth (coach of the 36ers) disgraced himself as the national coach when Australia last met New Zealand in the World Cup qualifiers (we lost, and it was widely attributed to Phil’s coaching abilities).
So – last night was extra special for fans of the Magic, Titans and Kings as the Boomers took home gold from the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games (the first and possibly the last time Basketball has been played at the games). Those who know the history must have known how hard it would have been for Phil Smyth, who was on the commentary team watch his replacement do what he couldn’t do.
In all fairness, it was an extremely close game and it came down to the last minute and I have the utmost respect for the Tall Blacks (the New Zealand team). They lead by a narrow margin for most of the game and really out-classed us in the defensive and offensive rebounding stakes for most of the game.
Anstey is no Patriot
One of the challenges that the Australian team faced was the absence of our really big men, not because of injury, but because of greed. Chris Anstey bailed on the games because he had just signed a contract with Caja San Fernando in spain, presumably he didn’t want to injure himself playing for Australia and risk the big dollars he was going to get playing for two months overseas (apparently in that two months he will earn as much as he did for the entire season here in Australia). The thing that really burns is that Anstey was one of Goorjian’s recruits back in the Magic days so I would have thought that the combined loyalty to his former NBL coach and to his country would have gotten him to change his mind.
Still – its a testament to the depth of the Australian side that we were able to enlist the support of Paul Rogers and Tony Ronaldson (formerly of the Magic and Titans) to play the role of center during the game. Of course, it wasn’t Ronaldson or Rogers that won the match, it was a true team effort with some very tense moments during the closing stages of the match.
I really enjoyed watching many of the former Magic and Titans (like Jason Smith – who turned down an overseas contract to play – how about that Chris) play as well as some of the new and upcoming stars like Newley (although why he kept trying to hit threes when he was missing so many mystified me).
If you stand back and look at the overall basketball results you can see the symmetry between the mens and womens competition. The night before the Opals (Australian womens team) beat the New Zealand team in a bit of a walk over, but the final medal placings across both competitions were:
- Gold to Australia
- Silver to New Zealand
- Bronze to England
I think that England is probably happy with the result, but this really builds on the general level of sports rivalry between Australia and New Zealand. The next international is going to be interesting to watch.
Getting Into Basketball?
After the Titans folded it was hard to stay enthusiastic about basketball, but this win has renewed my interest (Nic’s as well – she was a more hardcore fan than me anyway) and its a shame that there is no longer a local team here in Canberra (the Canons folded years ago).
While we have an emotional tie to the Sydney Kings team, we don’t have any association with where they are playing – we don’t live in Sydney. Maybe this win will spark enough interest in Basketball to get another Canberra team up, I believe that there has been some discussion about it already but it could be all rumours.
- It was a close game.
- The Boomers won.
- The Boomers rock.
- Brian Goorjian rocks.
- Phil Smyth blows.
- Chris Anstey could be a better Patriot.
- Phil Smyth blows.