There are four teams vying for the last spot in the NBL’s top four and they all just happen to be playing one another on Thursday night to open Round 17.
Illawarra Hawks coach Rob Beveridge might be frustrated with his inconsistent team this season as he approaches his 300th game coached in the NBL, but that milestone is a time to celebrate and reflect on a journey that has earned him master coach status.
Beveridge will coach his 300th game in the NBL this Saturday when his Hawks host the league-leading Sydney Kings at WIN Entertainment Centre, which in itself provides a reunion with Andrew Bogut, Brad Newley and Kevin Lisch, but his story started well before that.
Beveridge built his reputation not only as a coach but as an outstanding nurturer of talent and of developing young men into professional basketballers during a long and successful stint at the NSW Institute of Sport.
That included him picking up the job coaching the Australian Emus under-20s team and that’s where his lifelong bond with the likes of Bogut, Damian Martin, Matt Knight, Newley and Brad Robbins was formed as they went on to make history and win the 2003 world championship.
It was inevitable he would end up coaching in the NBL and Beveridge got his start with the West Sydney Razorbacks who morphed into the Sydney Spirit before folding following the 2008/09 season, which while difficult at the time, proved to be the best thing to happen.
The Perth Wildcats had still been playing finals since winning their last championship in 2000, but needed an overhaul.
They decided Beveridge was the man to oversee that and with only Shawn Redhage, Robbins and Stephen Weigh remaining (Paul Rogers went down with a career-ending injury), it was his team to build from scratch with an eye to long-term success.
Success came immediately with a championship in his first season in charge in 2009-10 with his faith placed in rookies Lisch and Jesse Wagstaff, and backing in of Martin and Robbins to be the point guards, with the veteran guile of Martin Cattalini, Galen Young and Luke Schenscher.
Beveridge took the Wildcats to two more grand final series and a semi-final appearance over the next three years before his time was up in charge of Perth after a remarkable run for four seasons which saw him win 79 of the 130 games he was in charge of.
Having been coaching full-time without a break for most of the century, Beveridge took the chance to have a little break following that 2012-13 grand final series loss to the New Zealand Breakers.
He would spend two seasons away from the NBL and in that time even coached the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks in China, but he was enticed back into the league by the Hawks for the 2015-16 season.
He is now in his fourth season with Illawarra and that has included taking the under-resourced club to a grand final and semi-final appearance in that time which has only served to further enhance his reputation as a coach capable of getting the absolute most out of his players.
Over the course of 299 games in the NBL, Beveridge has won 159 of those and is a championship winner while having taken his teams to another three grand final series and two more semi-final appearances.
That has included numerous times where he’s been at the helm of teams battling the odds, but because of his coaching style to empower his players and his inclusive manner to make them all feel important with the freedom to play to their strengths, he continues to have great success.
It’s the individual bonds with players that Beveridge has formed with players that tell his true story, though, and that show just why he is such a universally respected man, not just a coach throughout the basketball industry.
Bogut went on to have a storied NBA career as the No. 1 draft pick and playing 753 games including winning a championship with the Golden State Warriors, but he never forgot his time with Beveridge and what he did for his career.
Then there are those he coached in Sydney and then in Perth like Knight (129 games) and Drew Williamson (128) while he coached Lisch for the first 157 matches of his NBL career and Wagstaff in his first 120.
But it’s Damian Martin who Beveridge will forever be most closely linked to and remarkably despite Beveridge now coaching Illawarra and Martin still captaining Perth, both men reach their 300-game NBL milestones this weekend.
Beveridge coached Martin in his first 150 NBL games but that is nowhere near where their journey started.
As a 15-year-old, Martin quit basketball because the travel from Gloucester to play in the Hunter Valley was too much. But a year later, Beveridge enticed him back to the sport with a scholarship to the NSW Institute of Sport and the rest is history.
They had great success together in state and national championships, and then in that 2003 world championship team. Then at the Razorbacks and Spirit, Martin got his first crack in the NBL with Beveridge as his coach.
Both then made the move to Perth for the 2009-10 season, sharing the 2010 championship and spending three more seasons together before Beveridge left the Wildcats. Martin has remained and has put together a career that makes him an all-time great of the NBL.
Saturday is Beveridge’s day to celebrate his 300-game milestone coaching in the NBL and it’s an occasion to stop and reflect on what an impact he has had not only on the teams he’s coached, but the players who owe their careers to him.
Whether it was someone like Kirk Penney who stopped by to play under Beveridge for one season when he returned to the NBL or Bogut or Newley who only had him as teenagers, or indeed Martin or Lisch who coached for 150-plus games in the NBL, they all love the man known as ‘Bevo’.
That’s not to say Beveridge is an easy coach. He demands full commitment from his players and that they give their all to the team’s cause. But in return they get his full support and he will have full confidence to go out and perform to their best in their best-suited roles.
He has a proven history through junior ranks at state, national and international level, and now professionally in the NBL of getting the best out of players and teams. Even at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast last year, he did an outstanding job getting Scotland to the final four.
What Beveridge demands is commitment from his players to the game plans who puts together.
That’s why he was so frustrated on New Year’s Eve when the Hawks went away from his plan, and then didn’t even follow their own in the third quarter, on the way to a 26-point loss at home to the Brisbane Bullets.
That was hardly the way he wanted to finish 2018. But now he’s hopeful of a response from his group on Saturday to open 2019 in his milestone game and against the league-leading Kings.
“If I put a game plan together and it’s really, really crap and we lose because of that, I can wear that. But if we don’t even attempt to do some of the stuff we spoke about doing and trained to do then the players need to have some sort of accountability,” Beveridge said.
“I know I’m the head coach and I question myself at times about if I can actually coach, but then we put on terrific performances. Then we deliver dismal performances and right now I’m second guessing myself as a coach as well. Right now I’m glad that game is out of the way and I truly hope 2019 is going to be a better year for us.”
NBL ROUND 12 FIXTURES (AEDT)
Cairns Taipans 109 defeated Brisbane Bullets 80
Adelaide 36ers 96 lost to New Zealand Breakers 104
Illawarra Hawks v Sydney Kings – WIN Entertainment Centre 2.50pm
New Zealand Breakers v Perth Wildcats – Spark Arena 12.08pm
Brisbane Bullets v Melbourne United – Gold Coast Convention Centre 2.08pm
Cairns Taipans v Sydney Kings – Cairns Convention Centre 7.50pm