Perth played the last game of the regular season without star imports Bryce Cotton and Terrico White.
He might not necessarily want the attention, but Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson is becoming one of the headline acts of this NBL finals campaign and after drawing attention to the screens of Brisbane, he’s now called out Melbourne United for flopping.
Gleeson is already the most successful coach Wildcats history and it remains one of the great intriguing factors of this finals series that he remains unsigned and will be out of contract come the end of the season.
That’s creating quite a degree of interest surrounding the man who has now coached 382 NBL matches between the Townsville Crocodiles, Melbourne Tigers and the Perth Wildcats, but he’s also proving that he puts a lot of thought into what he says when fronting the media.
Ahead of the semi-final series against the Brisbane Bullets, Gleeson made a special point to call out the Bullets’ big men, specifically Mika Vukona, Matt Hodgson and Cam Bairstow for setting, what he called, illegal screens.
Whether it had an impact on the officiating or not was tough to tell with Perth cruising to the 2-0 series sweep, but he’s gone to the well again now, after the first two games of the grand final series ahead of Game 3 at RAC Arena on Friday night.
Gleeson has noted that the calls to try and stamp out flopping early in the season have dropped away. Even though Cam Gliddon was called twice for it in the semi-finals for Brisbane in Perth, he urges his players to keep being physical and to especially continue setting hard screens.
“It (flopping) was called early in the year and I don’t know if they’ve put their whistles away in the finals with that,” Gleeson said.
“But all we can do is make sure we are setting great screens. If they bounce off like we are a Marvel hero there’s nothing we can do about it. If it’s illegal, call it, not a problem but it just has to be consistent.”
“They have a couple of guys that accentuates contact out there and sometimes it feels like we are a Marvel hero they bounce that far off. We have to make sure we are getting Bryce (Cotton) good looks and are setting great screens out there to try and get Bryce open especially.”
“They have a couple of guys where it’s minimal contact, maximum exposure out there. It’s about being smart and Tom set some great screens out there last Friday but we probably shied away from that on Sunday.”
Now, of course, Gleeson has a point when it comes to Melbourne’s floppers with Chris Goulding especially renowned for it.
It will come as a source of amusement to those outside of Perth that the Wildcats are complaining about accentuating contact when a host of ‘Cats players have all been accused of doing that exactly, and drawing dubious calls going in their direction as a result.
As for Gleeson’s future, he won’t be drawn into a public debate except to say he’s happy to wait until the end of the season and that his assistant, Matt Nielsen, is ready to coach in his own right whether in Perth or elsewhere.
“It’s been documented and the board has said they want to put it on hold until after the season. So I respect that and we’ll play this to win a championship and then we’ll deal with that when we deal with it. I’m totally focused on winning this championship,” Gleeson said.
“He (Nielsen) is ready without a question. Over the last three or four years now, he’s been very valuable in our coaching staff. He wanted to learn the ropes before jumping in and I think he’s done a great apprenticeship job.”
“If the job opens up, I think it’ll be his choice if he wants it or not but he certainly has all the attributes of a very good coach.”
Speaking of Redhage, he weighed into the debate, having won three of the four championships during his storied 380-game career with the Wildcats under Gleeson, he thinks he deserves to coach on and expects that will happen despite him remaining unsigned.
“I think Trev’s record speaks for itself and he’s done such a fantastic job since he got here. He’s won three championships and no other Wildcats coach has done that so I think he’ll be back at the club,” Redhage said.
“But I guess you never know until the contract’s signed and delivered. I imagine there would be a lot of clubs after him if he became available but he’s done a fantastic job here and I think he’s earned the right to remain coaching for a long time.”
It’s all a backdrop to the NBL championship, being decided with Perth and Melbourne, both delivering dominant second-half performances on their home floor in the first two games.
Game 3 is now in Perth on Friday night and Game 4 in Melbourne on Sunday. If both teams again hold serve, the deciding Game 5 will be back at Perth’s RAC Arena next Sunday with the 2019 champions to be crowned.
NBL grand final series (AEDT)
Perth Wildcats vs Melbourne United
Game 1 – Perth Wildcats 81 defeated Melbourne United 71, RAC Arena
Game 2 – Melbourne United 92 defeated Perth Wildcats 74, Melbourne Arena
Game 3 – Friday March 15, 10.35pm RAC Arena
GAME 4 – Sunday March 17, 2.20pm Melbourne Arena
GAME 5 – Sunday March 24, 3.00pm RAC Arena (if required)