The Roar
The Roar


Gaze has last laugh with Kings over United

(AAP Image/Sydney Kings)
13th November, 2016

Andrew Gaze had countless reasons to be satisfied in his return to Melbourne on Saturday, but perhaps none more so than to see his hometown United continue to struggle.

Gaze is Australian basketball’s greatest icon but he is also forever linked to the Melbourne Tigers. He is and was the Melbourne Tigers to the core.

It cut him deep when the new management at the club decided to rename and rebrand the Tigers and turn them into Melbourne United.

The reasons were clear in trying to capture the entire Melbourne basketball audience that included the defunct South East Melbourne Magic, North Melbourne Giants, Victoria Titans and South Dragons.

While success hasn’t come on the court with the best result last season’s minor premiership, the finances, membership and crowd figures have all reflected it has been a good move off the court.

But for Gaze, seeing his beloved Tigers no longer competing in the NBL was something that he will likely never forgive the club management for.

It’s almost impossible to imagine he would be coaching the Sydney Kings right now if there was still a Melbourne Tigers. In fact, there is every chance he would be coaching the Tigers considering he did take over the helm of the club’s SEABL team.

Andrew Gaze looking on for the Kings


That’s why, when Gaze came back to Melbourne on Saturday for the first time under the banner of the Sydney Kings, there was no way he was going to accept losing.

He will always be everything that Melbourne basketball stands for. But he has no link to United and has never wanted one. So to beat them relatively comfortably to keep his Kings atop NBL and United rock bottom, he would have left Hisense Arena content.

There were plenty of reasons for him to be happy with Sydney bouncing back from a loss to Brisbane on Thursday. Reigning MVP Kevin Lisch was unstoppable with 30 points and backcourt partner Jason Cadee added 26 near the top of the list.

And while he might not admit to the personal satisfaction that came from handing United a fifth-straight defeat to keep them on the bottom of the ladder, there’s no doubt those feelings were there for Gaze.

There appears no out of the slump in the short-term for Melbourne either, even when Chris Goulding returns from an ankle injury. Cedric Jackson was sacked last week and he was a player that played in four grand finals and three championships in four seasons with the New Zealand Breakers.

A player that successful should have been able to succeed at Melbourne.

Whether it’s the fault of coach Dean Demopoulos or a playing group that is more focused on playing as individuals than a team remains to be seen. But it’s unlikely Jackson was the cause of their struggles and it’s even more unlikely his axing will provide any respite.


That’s not Gaze’s problem.

He would have never dreamed of ever stepping into the Kings organisation, let alone coaching one of his strongest rivals if the Tigers still existed. So seeing the team that replaced them is hardly going to cause him any lost sleep.

It was an upbeat Gaze following the win in Melbourne and, more than anything, he enjoyed getting to show some of his old Tigers teammates and fans that their system, led by the shuffle offence, still works.

“When I look around and see Warrick Giddy, Mark Bradtke, D-Mac and a lot of my old teammates to support the game and I assume they were in our corner, at least in my head they were, it’s just a fun place to be in,” Gaze said.

“I almost felt like I wanted to show those guys that those things we used to run can still work in this league. It obviously helps when you’ve got some great talent like we do, but it was a good fun environment.”

Gaze’s remarkably positive outlook was contagious to his Tigers and Australian teammates as a player, and now it’s rubbing off on his Kings charges.

There are some huge names on his roster, including former NBA veterans Steve Blake and Josh Powell, Rio Olympians Lisch and Brad Newley along with another Boomer Aleks Maric, emerging import Greg Whittington and star locals Tom Garlepp and Cadee.


Sydney Kings point guard Steve Blake

That talent is a big reason on its own why Sydney sits atop the NBL with a 7-3 record, but just as much it is the freedom that Gaze allows them to play with, the chemistry they have developed and, above all, the fun they are clearly having.

When you hear Gaze talk about his excitement about returning to Melbourne and his love of the game, it’s easy to see why his players are so enthused about playing under him.

“I was excited before the game. Even at shootaround I felt like I was getting ready to play after I hit my first couple of shots when I came out,” Gaze said.

“It was that familiar environment and we played so many games here, Copes was there with me talking crap and it was just like it felt when we were playing.

“Then walking out into the stadium for the game and seeing the fans, it was more about thinking that this game is alive and healthy, and there are great things happening and that we could do battle in this environment.

“It took me back to the 90s when we over at the Tennis Centre when there’s a bit of feeling and passion there. It showed that it means something and I loved it. I got to a point where I was that excited that we could have been anywhere and I was rapt to be there, and be part of it.”


Gaze’s next assignment is this Thursday against the Perth Wildcats at Perth Arena as he tries to lead the Kings to their first victory out west since the club returned to the NBL in 2010-11.

Round 6 NBL results

Brisbane Bullets 86 defeated Sydney Kings 73

New Zealand Breakers 79 lost to Cairns Taipans 86

Adelaide 36ers 74 lost to Illawarra Hawks 85
Melbourne United 71 lost to Sydney Kings 87

Cairns Taipans 76 – Brisbane Bullets 84 (game cancelled due to power failure)
Perth Wildcats 86 lost to New Zealand Breakers 87