AL HAMNIK: Region coaches help give NBL Finals a push

2014-04-07T17:15:00Z 2014-04-30T20:58:07Z AL HAMNIK: Region coaches help give NBL Finals a pushAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
April 07, 2014 5:15 pm  • 

Picture this, if you can.

Australia's pre-eminent National Basketball League Finals, a best-of-three series between heated rivals the Perth Wildcats and Adelaide 36ers, began Monday night.

These teams don't like each other, so this is appointment viewing down under.

Now here's some true irony. Australia is 9,235 miles and a 12-hour time difference from Chicago. You figure any local angle would be a real stretch but let me throw two names at you.

Joey Wright, 1986 Gavit grad, former Texas star and a second-round draft pick of the Phoenix Suns in '91.

He's Adelaide's head coach.

Adam Tatalovich, 1996 Hobart grad, Chicago Bulls video coordinator, University of Dayton graduate assistant, Gary Steelheads assistant coach/director of player development, LeBron James Skills Camp assistant.

He's a second-year assistant with Perth.

And neither coach knew of the other's background, not even after their teams had to be separated during a ruckus back on Valentine's Day.

They do now.

"It turned into a pretty ugly situation," Tatalovich said. "The players got into a big melee. Coaches were pushing players away. (Wright) had a hand on me and I pushed it away. The incident was overblown but both us went to the league's tribunal, where it was dropped.

"I didn't know he was from the region. It's funny, this happening halfway around the world. The year I was with the Steelheads (2004-05), I taught at Gavit."

Wright's version of what happened differs a bit.

"Tatalovich pushed me after some players got into it and I pushed back," he said by email. "It was nothing but great publicity.

"To be honest, I didn't know who he was and still don't. I have coached close to 400 games here but he just got here. Still can't believe he's from the region."

The tribunal dictates rules and policy within the eight-team NBL, much like NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's office does in this country.

"I really have no animosity towards him," Wright said of Tatalovich. "It's very laughable. Look on YouTube. I'm sure it's on there."

Both men hope to coach in the NBA or at a high-level Division I college program one day, and continue their networking stateside.

But for now, the NBL Finals is their primary focus.

"The caliber of ball here is very high, somewhere between the NBA and college," Wright said. "We could beat the better college teams by 20 and lose to the worst NBA teams by 20."

Each NBL roster is allowed two "imports" from America, with Perth having former Vanderbilt star Jermaine Beal and second-round Miami Heat draft pick James Ennis.

All teams have a $1 million salary cap. Perth is shooting for its sixth championship, Adelaide its fifth.

"Almost all of our roster went to American colleges," Tatalovich said. "The level of play in the NBL is tough, physical and more athletic because of the imports."

Life in Australia takes getting used to, as Tatalovich is slowly learning. The seasons run in reverse, with fall beginning now in Perth.

"During Christmas break, in December and January, it's 90 degrees and everyone's at the beach," he said.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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