Gentlemen prefer blondes, not blonds, especially not forms of the latter who are opposing point guards with lethal long-range shooting games and a bit of ’tude – like Shane Heal.
Were you mad taking on the captain/coach role of South Dragons in ’06? It’s hard enough holding down either job in modern pro sport on its own ...
There’s two tales to it. I came in after the team lost its first six games. Then we went on and we had an unbelievable season. It wasn’t really that difficult to be able to juggle the roles at all. We were the highest-finishing first-year franchise in history. It was great. The flipside to that was the second year: we loaded up with the youngest team in the league and we didn’t have the same success and we finished bottom and I departed from the club. They bought in Brian Goorjian and ended up spending double the budget the following year, buying all the players who had left the Kings and they had success. I really enjoyed the experience. If I did it again, I’d certainly do it differently, but it was a fantastic first year and I was happy to be a part of it.
If the league was to choose a pin-up glamour boy to hang its promo hopes on, who would you pick of the current crop as far as appeal and general basketball flair is concerned?
That’s a very good question. At the moment we have four Aussie guys playing in the NBA and half-a-dozen guys playing in Europe, which means our best ten players are all playing overseas. There are a number of Australian-based players, though, who they could look at like James Harvey at the Gold Coast, Mark Worthington in Melbourne for the Tigers. Guys like Patty Mills, who’s now in the NBA, is only 21, an indigenous kid, who’s a great talent and a really good personality, Andrew Bogut, the Matthew Nielsens and the David Andersens are all playing overseas. We have a lot of talent, we just have to be able to find ways to use their profiles to help the sport locally.
About that famous confrontation with Sir Charles at the Atlanta Games … What do you remember most about it?
I idolised him. He was awesome. He turned out to be a good bloke. They were pretty arrogant, though, and didn’t have a lot of respect for us. We were looking forward to playing against them but at the same time we said we weren’t going to take a backward step. The Dream Team disrespected us and tried to bully us a bit and we stood up for ourselves and it got a bit heated. It was a lot of fun. I reckon someone would ask me about that every second day. It amazes me – it happened in 1996 – that people still want to know about it.
Your tip for the 2009/2010 NBL champs?
I’m ashamed to say it, but I think the Kiwis – the New Zealand Breakers. I have a pain in my gut as I’m saying it. They have a great line-up and they’re well coached.
– James Smith