April 18, 2018 13:38:14
Scotland’s basketball team celebrates during its win over Nigeria in the Commonwealth Games. (Facebook: Basketball Scotland)
(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)
The Illawarra Hawks failed to make the playoffs last season, the club’s general manager quit, and rumours began of an AFL club looking to buy the club’s licence and relocate it to Melbourne.”It’s something I needed as a coach. When Illawarra Hawks coach Rob Beveridge agreed to coach the Scotland’s men’s basketball team in the Commonwealth Games, he did not expect to take a lowly ranked group of mainly part-time players to a medal match and inspire a nation.Followers of Australian basketball have seen this Beveridge magic act before.The Wollongong-based coach of the Illawarra Hawks NBL team is known for taking on a coaching gig with an underdog team and helping turn them into contenders.He did it when he arrived at Wollongong after years with the big-spending Perth Wildcats, where he took the perennially frugal Hawks to the playoffs and then the grand final the following year.He has done it again with an unranked Scottish national team with just four professional players and two boys still in high school, making it to the bronze medal game of the Commonwealth Games.The coach returned to work in Wollongong this week, but the memories of his achievement will last a long time.”I’m still overwhelmed by it,” he said.”You look back and five weeks ago I took a job where they fired their coach, the team was picked and you find out you’ve got four professional players, then a couple of married guys with kids, bankers, a couple at university and then two kids in Year 12. “Over there it’s all about soccer, but right now everyone’s talking about basketball and that can only be great for the country.”A job he took for his familyWhen Beveridge was announced as the Scottish coach, many people laughed at the appointment, but few realised he was the son of a proud Scot who moved to Australia in 1963.His father has been unwell for many years and he lost his aunt to cancer last year.”It was super important and I did it because of my family,” Beveridge said.”My dad spent most of his life here but he’s a passionate Scotsman. Scotland is unranked, but they were some of the most tremendous guys I’ve worked with and the belief they had is inspiring.”
After the team’s Commonwealth Games success, “everyone in Scotland is talking about basketball”, Beveridge says. “It’s got everyone back together after so many years of being away, and it was special being over there and meeting different relatives.”Beveridge only had a short period of time with his team after flying into blizzards in Glasgow, where he had to gauge the talent he had and formulate a plan to beat far more experienced nations.Despite taking him away from his family, the move proved to be surprisingly beneficial for his own wellbeing. “It’s a tough league we play in, but I’m chomping at the bit, ready to go.”Beveridge said the appointment of Hawks great Mat Campbell as general manager was the other reason he had stayed at the club.”We have a lot of stuff to do, but right now I feel fantastic, motivated and super excited to have Mat Campbell here. “He’s a legend, he’s passionate, highly respected and it’s something this club needed.”Beveridge will now turn his focus to signing 10 players for the Hawks, with forward AJ Ogilvy the club’s only contracted player for the 2018/19 season. Photo:
Coaching the Scottish team has inspired Beveridge for another season in Wollongong. “The journey from where we were to making a medal round is unheard of. (Facebook: Basketball Scotland)
While Australia comfortably won the gold medal for basketball over Canada, and Scotland was defeated for the bronze medal by New Zealand, the story of Beveridge’s feats have put basketball back into the national sporting conversation in Scotland.”What hit me is the influence or legacy of what we did and how it has inspired a nation,” he said.”The amount of media is out of control and it lifts the sport. Last year was a crap year, we had injuries and off-court things, and you get tired and burnt out as a coach,” he said.”I was second-guessing myself whether I wanted to continue doing this, so for me to go away and work with an incredible group of guys has reignited my passion.
If the Commonwealth Games ended after Gold Coast, would we really care?