Breaking down the coaching situation

The newspapers, message boards and general fan noise is that the coach needs to go. But does he? For your reading pleasure, here's a breakdown of the pros and cons so we can all make a measured decision. As with anyone commenting on this stuff from "outside", I can't say I've watched countless training sessions, sat in on meetings, spoken 1-on-1 to coach or players etc but from what we see on the court and what is and isn't said through the media here's what I think we can dissect.

In the NBL the coach has a big say (within the cap) on who stays and who goes. In 2010 Marty kept Ballinger, Holmes, Hill, Ng and Herbert from the years previous roster and brought in imports Tony DeVries and Craig Winder and Aussies Rhys Carter, Daniel Johnson and Mitch Creek. You've gotta say that's an impressive group of Aussies. The imports were another story. Winder and DeVries both didn't live up to expectations and were both cut, being replaced by Eddie Shannon and Ron Howard. Shannon struggled and Howard did too but I think if he avoided injury and got more opportunities and time to settle in he could have been a player. Aaron Bruce also came in mid year after a long break from the game to help with ball handling duties and was rusty early but grew as the year went on.

In 2011 Holmes,Bruce and Hill were let go, as were the imports (Howard had been released before seasons end). Carter had decided to go overseas to ply his trade. The Aussies were replaced with veterans Nathan Crosswell and Wade Helliwell and emerging Perth forward Stephen Weigh. The imports were John Williamson and Chris Warren. Williamson got hurt early and was replaced by Diamon Simpson. Due to injuries Everard Bartlett was also brought in.

In the cold light of day: Clarke has assembled a solid group of local talent. over the 2 years. The imports have been another story with Simpson being the only one who would be considered an MVP-type. Sadly in this league the imports are critical and you need both to be good fits for the team and the league. Chris Warren is not a pass-first PG and has been exposed repeatedly on defence. He can shoot the ball, but has fallen in love too much with the 3 and seen his shooting percentage plummet. Because of his deficiencies, the team was forced to start Crosswell, who was only supposed to be a back-up to Warren. This threw out team balance and asked a veteran in the twilight of his career to become a key contributor.

Questions have arisen over the career years of Jacob Holmes and Aaron Bruce after their moves. The Holmes decision was understandable at the time as his shooting was awful and he was a very limited player but Townsville is using him beautifully. Bruce was more questionable but I believe he wanted a chance to start and that wasn't going to happen here. He would have been very handy for us this year.

Sackable On The Above?: No. He has assembled a solid group of Aussies but MUST get the right PG next year if he gets his contract honoured.

This was supposed to be his key strength as a coach, with himself and others noting his involvement with players such as AndrewBogut and Patty Mills. Creek has suffered from lack of opportunity up until Crosswell's injury but his last game showed a glimpse of what he can do ie play hard D, slash to the basket and even hit the 3. Johnson has emerged as a star....on offense. He has a wide array of moves and can hit from inside and outside. Defensively he has a long way to go. Weigh has showed glimpses, especially early but has struggled since November. He seems out of sorts on where to be on D and where to put the ball in offense. Ng is Ng, Herbie is recovering from injury and Daly and Warbout continue to be bench warmers.

In the cold light of day: Johnson has been his trophy as evidence of his development skills. DJ's offensive game has grown in leaps and bounds and he has emerged to the point that last years MVP (Ballinger) was going to struggle for minutes with his and Simpson's play. It's early to say on Creek, the next few months will show what he's been working on.

Sackable On The Above?: No. Johnson has been a big tick for him and you could really have only asked for an improvement in Daly, who was always going to have limited opportunities with the team's structure.

X and O's
Offensively, the team is the 2nd highest scoring team in the league (86.6), trailing only Perth on 88.1. The team can put the ball in the bucket, with Simpson,Warren and Johnson being regular 20+ pts threats. The issue on offense often comes down to who's shooting with Warren, Weigh and Ng all shooting 40% or under. The team has relied heavily on outscoring the opposition in it's wins, with our totals in the wins being 95, 100, 96, 87 and 96. That makes the issue clearer.

On defence Adelaide gives up 91pts a game, the worst in the league. 3 teams are giving up under 80pts a game and they are not surprisingly Perth, New Zealand and Cairns (3 of the Top 4 teams). Is this related to strategies? Maybe in part but if you look at the starting 5, I'd say Weigh,Johnson and Warren are all sub par defenders and Creek and Simpson are elite. Unfortunately we don't have a punishing centre who is intimidating players entering into the lane and making up for the regular lapses we have on D. Off the bench we have Herbert (elite) and Helliwell (asks questions at least) as other contributors. The team plays a mix-up of man, a little zone and some junk D (mix of zone and man). I'd think zone would be our best option with so many average defenders. A press would also be nice when Creek and Herbie are on the court.

In general he has had some success with drawn up plays for end of quarters etc but the main ones don't seem to run too well.

In the cold light of day: The team can score, but isn't necessarily efficient. On defence we are simply the worst in the league.

Sackable On The Above?: No...but it's not pretty. The offense needs to be more efficient which he must take some responsibility for. Greater emphasis must be placed on D as scoring isn't the main problem. Some fast breaks off steals etc would also be nice. He did put this team together and it's not a good defensive one. Defence must be high on the skills set of the next import PG (would also help if he's over 6ft!). Would also be good to secure a Paul Rees/David Cooper type off the bench (this may have been their thinking with Helliwell but he's only had 1 meaningful game thus far).

Most people's pet peeve with Clarke's coaching. Has shown a lack of "gut feel" for scenarios games throw up. As an example, last week when Andrew Warren hit 3 quick triples in succession Mitch Creek was off the floor. In his place was Darren Ng who wasn't scoring or playing tight enough D. Has also drawn ire for the minutes not given to Simpson and the excess minutes given to Weigh. His substitution patterns do confuse at times, especially the frequency of which they occur.

In the cold light of day: Probably his major downfall as a coach alongside import selection. His allegiance to Weigh and lack of minutes for Simpson have certainly played some part.

Sackable On The Above?: Not in isolation, but it needs some work.

So after reviewing all the above in isolation it appears he's got some good excuses. He's assembled some good local talent, got a stud import in Simpson, has brought on Daniel Johnson to one on the league's emerging bigs and has put together a team that can put the ball in the basket. His problems though are that in his 2 years his teams have finished bottom and likely 2nd bottom. He hasn't got the imports right and has gone through 3 American point guards without success. On game night he's made some bad decisions at crucial times. Defensively his teams have ranked near the bottom. So the team can go 2 ways...........

Sack Him- the team will owe some money and will be onto it's 3rd coach in 5 years. If they do it mid-season they would be desperately hoping it worked similarly to how it worked at Adelaide United.

Give Him 1 More Year- unless they can get a proven coach who thinks he can work with this team and get the imports right this is probably the best option for now. I'd assemble a brainstrust to get the import right and do what it takes to keep Simpson. He also needs to prove he can fix the defence by being given the players he wants and must explain how he's going to manage the rotation.

I didn't think initially this was how the column would end but I think he should be given another year if management ensures he gets the import right, can fix the defence and work out a structured rotation.

What do you think?


  1. Nice job, very even handed.

    However i think you’ve got to look at the results- you can justify things in a lot of ways but if a team is the worst team in the league or close to it two years running, then you need to make changes.

    And i don’t see any indication that bringing him back next year would stop us being the worst in the league again.

    So you can blame it on the players or the coach but its not really feasible to get rid of all the players.

    The fact that most of the shots are being taken by the team’s worst performing shooters is entirely on the coach – its his responsibility to set up a system in which the players work to create high percentage shots. If the players he has refuse to buy into that and settle for chucking up threes all game then that’s on him.

    He's had two years to sort out the import situation (not his job per se but he would have a role), fix the defence, and work out a structured rotation - and I think that's enough.

  2. I sincerely hope that Clarkey does actually read this column and take some notes. I also would like him to get another assistant coach. I understand the history that he is trying to evoke - Smyth made a pact with Steve B that which ever of them landed a head coaching role first , would employ the other as an assitant, Steve's first was actually coaching Smyth. Smyths' first was at adelaide, he brought in Steve, and they had a fantastic first 6 years. But that ain't happening for these two apple island emigrants, and I don't think Clarke is getting enough good advice.

  3. Anonymous 1- I hear you, if you look at the wins and where the team's at that simply change must occur.Looking deeper I think there's enough to give him another year. Would love to really hear what the players think about his communication, style etc

    Anonymous 2- I think he needs some assistance/mentoring. Don't think clubs can afford multiple assistants these days.


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