The Interview: Boti Nagy

I've been reading Boti Nagy's articles since I was a teenager and  love the way he covers basketball. His game reviews, preview and "Around The NBL" articles show insight, wisdom and  humour. Boti is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to South Australia's basketball history and he often speaks up for those who the game has forgotten. His book on Brett Maher, "Mahervellous", is one of my favourite basketball books and provides a lot of stories about the Sixers teams I started following. Boti was good enough to recently respond to some questions for an interview. I'm super appreciative for his honesty and depth of responses.

*Ed Note: These questions started right before Diamon signed with Houston, affecting question 3.

1)      When did the 36ers season start to go wrong? The John Williamsom injury? The need to play Chris Warren at SG? The season opener? Something else?

Interesting question. Considering Diamon Simpson is now in the NBA and John Williamson is not, I don’t think the trade-off there worked against Adelaide. So, apart from the initial disruption of going from thinking this is your line-up, to finding that no, THIS is your line-up, I don’t put much stock in that.

Chris Warren was brought in to play point guard. Now if suddenly he needed to be supported by Nathan Crosswell as the “executive” point guard and mentor, then, for the second year in succession, Marty and Mark erred in who they recruited. Last season they brought  in Craig Winder, who also was a good player but couldn’t really cut it as a point guard. So to repeat the same mistake – bring in someone not really cut out to do the job  but “we’ll make him a point guard” – is either arrogance, stupidity, an inability to learn from  past mistakes or a major miscalculation of whether the guy can actually run your team. I don’t know which it was but Warren could not run the 36ers.

So that brings us to Crosswell’s injury which I think hurt far more than Ballinger’s.
Adam has reason to be angry with how the club (and for “club”, read medical team) mishandled the diagnosis of his ankle injury. He should have had surgery a year ago, so that was a major league stuff-up. He never truly got going before he hurt it again and ended his season.
I don’t subscribe to Ballinger’s injury greatly contributing to the ninth-placed finish because even when he was moderately healthy, the hierarchy seemed to have no clear idea of how they wanted to use him. I felt, for them, at least, it was a blessing in disguise when he got hurt.
But Crosswell HAD been having an impact, if only relieving Warren from duties he wasn’t cut out for anyway. I haven’t done the sums but I’d be interested to see what Chris averaged when Crossy was playing and what he was scoring when Crossy was out.

The season opener was little more than a precursor to what season 2011-12 would serve up for us. We expected Perth to come in and lay down again? Don’t think so.
They pantsed the 36ers on Day One and the Sixers finished last on Day Done. All the opener told us was what to expect. Sadly. Pre-season was a myth.

Something else? The coaching staff’s bromance with Stephen Weigh was mostly to the team’s detriment. He had carte blanche court time which just retarded Mitch Creek’s evolution and made Wade Helliwell largely redundant.
Helliwell is a limited player but he can set screens and hurt people. Brett Maher can thank a lot of his open jumpers to Paul Rees. I always felt Helliwell could have been used the same way but never was. Watching him steadily lose all confidence and deteriorate into a trying-to-please dufus was sad to behold.
Everard Bartlett was underplayed.
He could be Adelaide’s long-term answer at point guard but 36ers finish last and we still don’t truly know.
As long as the team is going to bomb, then let’s LEGITIMATELY find out who can play and take our lumps with Creek and Bartlett. They needed more minutes pumped into them. Weigh didn’t.

I think when the “bench” copped that crucial tech foul which cost us a key game, and the men who demand accountability would take NO responsibility, the season was shot from then forward. Read into that what you will.

2) What did you make of the Perth games? Two losses here and 2 very good away wins...didn't seem to make much sense.

No it didn’t. Sixers management probably hangs its hat on the first road win in Perth (or maybe it was the second, can’t recall now) but the one where Adelaide had its full team for one of the rare few times of the year.  It was a great performance, as was winning the inaugural Cattalini Cup clash.
Sometimes you find teams match up well and seem to have another team’s number when talent and ladder placings might suggest otherwise. As unusual as Adelaide’s wins were over Perth, Sydney similarly had the wood on Cairns and probably cost the Taipans a finals spot.
Those sorts of vagaries are the joys of sport.

3) I was very impressed with Diamon Simpson and think he has the tools to be a very successful player in our league. I'd love to see him back with a full preseason under his belt. Your thoughts?
There were problems with Diamon and some in the 36ers hierarchy away from the games, which may explain some of his unusual court time allocations.
I am sure he enjoyed his time here but will be in no hurry to return as things remain.
Plus he has cracked the NBA now so I think his future may be in other directions that pay more $$$ anyway.
Diamon may be a moot point for 36ers fans as it now stands. And good luck to him.

4) Chris Warren showed flashes but in my opinion isn't as good a fit for the league. He could grow into a solid player but I believe the way the NBL works you should bring in experienced 26-30yr old point guards ie Jackson,Wilson, Gill. Your thoughts?
Agreed. If we are talking about bringing in a floor leader – a la Darnell Mee – you bring in a seasoned playmaker, not a kid straight out of college or one who doesn’t play the position to start with.
Look at the direction Wilson, Jackson and Gill provided for their clubs compared with Chris.
I don’t envy the position he was put in.

5) How far away is DJ from a Boomers spot? What parts of his game does he need to focus on?
DJ has been in the league at least four years. We have to stop treating him like some glorified rookie-made-good and recognise he is the club’s MVP.
Internationally he is a four-man in my view so you have to look at who our international four-men are and who he could replace in years to come.
You know Matt Nielsen and David Andersen are closer to the end than the beginning and DJ, with his height, quickness and growing range, definitely should have Boomer selection as a target. The next worlds, he should be in the mix.
His defence is still at a very immature stage, especially off the ball where he head turns and loses his man, especially on a curl cut – as, I might add, most of the 36ers do.
Defence is his biggest weakness.
His shot selection has improved but it needed to.

6) On the blog I've drawn some comparisons between Stephen Weigh and Martin Cattalini for obvious reasons. Is a Cattalini-type career his ceiling?
For mine, the jury is out on Stephen Weigh.
No less a player than Martin himself told me he could see a “Cattalini-type”career ahead for Stevie.
To get him from Perth – where he was a championship-winner AND a starter with a year to go on his contract – the Sixers had to promise something.
The general consensus is it was court-time and the chance to be “The Man”.
To accommodate that, he had WAY too much court-time which he did not seem to earn.
I’m not saying he isn’t tough on the training track because he is.
But virtually every game he would throw at least one ridiculous pass no-one could catch, as though that was in his contract too.
(At least one crap pass per game – yep, box ticked.)
He impressed me in the pre-season against Sydney in Brisbane but his shot selection sucked for long stretches of the season, his defence was mythical and it was largely his rebounding which the coaching staff leant on to justify his exorbitant minutes.
Often, especially early in the season, the offence would break down when he handled the ball, all the shake-and-bake but go no-where moves were yawn-inducing.
I recall the first time he and Brad Hill went head-to-head and it seemed both were trying to out-marvel each other, to no real avail apart from eating time and creating crap shots for teammates at the end of the shot-clock.
This must now read as though I am not a Weigh fan but that isn’t true.
I see great potential in the guy but that is potential which has to be reined and channelled with discipline.
Phil didn’t just let Cattalini “have his head”. He helped Cat evolve into who they wanted and thought he could be as a player.
It seems our coaches think Weigh is already there, and he isn’t. I see 2013 as a crucial season for Weigh – a make-or-break because, again, like DJ, we can pretend these guys are all rookies coming out of their shells or just acknowledge that by the same point in their careers, guys who were going to be big, already were.  E.g. Newley, Maher, Ingles – they’re who we want to compare them to so check out their Year 4 numbers.
I guess what I’m saying is it has been a too-easy ride here for Stephen and I don’t think that helped him one iota.
I know he was injured during the season but there again, he could have missed a few games and we could have taken some lumps with Mitch and watched him grow.
And Stevie could have come back, fit. Not rested all week, then played.
Traditionally, we’ve had some pretty decent three-men so he has big shoes to fill. And by “we”, I mean Australia.

7) From the rotations, I've felt many of the bench guys must have struggled to know when they'd be coming in and out of games (especially Herbert, Creek & Helliwell). How did you see it?
Exactly the same and that inconsistency was reflected in their games.
It isn’t brain surgery, no matter what the brains trust feed us.

8) For 2012-2013 to be a success, it's critical we get the imports right. Is their anyway we guarantee this? Phil Smyth had a pretty impressive record of bringing in the right guys- should he be a consultant?
No. Phil got it right with Darnell, KB and Willie Farley.
I might even give him Paul Maley and Matt Garrison.
Adam Ballinger was a proven player in the NBL when recruited and Dusty also had shown he could play before Phil recruited him.
I wouldn’t say the 36ers did all that well when Phil brought in Charles Thomas, Nick Horvath, Mike Chappell - all also players we already knew of.
Julius Hodge was good in Phil’s system and a disaster thereafter.
When Phil recruited Horvath, he and Steve Breheny had gone to the US in search of a player.
They should have done better, don’t you think?
So when you boil it down, KB, Willie and Julius were the “sight-unseen” imports the 36ers had during Phil’s time.
Not sure that should qualify Phil as a consultant.

The imports are crucial for sure. But you have to know what your Australian talent is before you can move there.
Like many, I thought having Marty as coach meant a pipeline into the best kids in the country and US college returnees.
Being brutal, we have DJ, Mitch and Weigh to show for two years.
In a three-year plan, surely you identify the core kids you want in Year 1 and build around them?
As we head into Year 3, who is still around from Year 1 and how many players have fallen by the wayside?
We’ve already been through seven imports too. And it looks like new ones in 2012-13.

You cannot guarantee how an import will fit in here. There’s so much to consider, cultural stuff, maturity, personality – so much before you even get to basketball.

Going over to the US and checking out lesser college programs would be a good idea.
Leroy went to Nowhere University and those are the places we could find diamonds, so to speak.

9) Last question, because you know the 36ers better than anyone, can you give me some quick responses to these

Favourite 36ers Team To Watch (ie 1985):
                1986 was amazing but all four championship teams were favourites.

Best Player To Pull On A 36ers Jersey:
                Brett Maher (Aussie)
                Robert Rose (US)

Most Memorable Game:
Adelaide 36ers v Brisbane Bullets, G1 1986 Grand Final series. Sixers in O/T in Brisbane. HUGE.

Most Memorable Series:
36ers-Magic GF in 1999 when they pinched G2 off the 36ers here to force a decider.

All-Time 36ers Best Starting 5:

Nearly impossible.
Darnell, Brett, Cat, KB, Paul Rees
Al, Darryl, Ali, Davis, Jones….

I'll respond with a few notes in tomorrow's blog on the interview. I hope you enjoyed it.
Many thanks again to Boti.


  1. Brilliant stuff. Great questions Forcey and loved the honesty and depth of insight in Boti's responses.

  2. would have loved you to have asked who would he choose as next coach IF marty fails again

  3. Thanks Darren.

    Good question Thomo. As you can see though, could only ask so many questions and he went into great depth on most of them. Hope to do a follow up down the track!

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