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6.10.3 Interview With Mick Downer February 2010

Basketball Crazy Interview:  Mick Downer

Basketball Crazy’s brief about Mick Downer: Mick has been a significant influence in the development of basketball in both Queensland and Western Australia.  Mick is currently the Assistant Coach at the National Basketball League Cairns Taipans.  This coaching position comes after a year being assistant coach for the National Basketball League Perth Wildcats while at the same time Head Coach for the Wanneroo Wolves State Basketball Team.  There has been a number of young elite players he has coached and assisted while being ITCP Head Coach in Western Australia and also through his participation at Australian Junior Camps.  You will see by Mick’s already impressive history below that he has an extensive basketball history which would hold him to be in BBC’s opinion, equal too if not one of the more exciting young coaches coming up through the ranks of Australian basketball.


Current Profession:  Assistant Coach – Carins Taipans      

Email:          mick@taipans.com


  • Senior Certificate - John Paul College, QLD 1995Australian Level 2 NCAS Basketball Coach
  • Australian Level 1 NCAS Strength & Conditioning Coach
  • Senior First Aid Certificate
  • Australian Basketball Coaches Association (ABCA)

Place of Birth:  Brisbane, QLD    Year of Birth  1977

History of Involvement with basketball Highlights:

         Junior Playing Career

Southern John Paul College Basketball Captain 1993-1995

         Senior Playing Career

  • University of Maine, Presque Isle 1997-98
  • Brisbane Brewers CBA 1996
  • Southern District Spartans ABA 1998 - 2000


          Coaching Career - NATIONAL BASKETBALL LEAGUE

  1. 2009/10 Assistant Coach Cairns Taipans
  2. 2009/10 Head Coach Aaron Fearne
  3. 2009/10 Head Coach  Cairns Taipans Academy
  4. 2009/10 Head Coach Aaron Fearne2008/09 Assistant Coach Perth Wildcats - Head Coach Conner Henry

Coaching Career - Other

Assistant Coach            Cairns Taipans Academy - 2005/07 Head Coach Aaron Fearne

Volunteer Coach           Townsville Crocs Sharp Start Program - 2004/05 Head Coach Andrej Lemanis

Volunteer Coach           Brisbane Bullets - 2001/03 Head Coach Richard Orlick

Coaching Career - INTERNATIONAL

Attended                        NITCP Coaches Study Tour – 2007 USA, Spain & France

Head Coach                  QLD NITCP USA High School/College Tour - 2004California, Arizona, Nevada

Guest Coach                 Rise Basketball Camps -1997 Gorham, New England


Assistant Coach            Australian University Men's – 2009  World University Games, Belgrade, Serbia

Head Coach                   Western Australia - NITC Program - 2007/08 Perth, WA

NITCP Head Coach         Australian Development Camps - 2004, 05, 07, 08 AIS, Canberra

Head Coach                   North QLD – NITC Program - 2004/05 Townsville, QLD

Attended                        Interstate Coach Exchange – 2003 AIS, Canberra

Attended:                       Opals World Challenge Training Camp - 2004 & 2006 Cairns, QLD

Network Coach              NITC Program - 2000 – 2003


Head Coach                    Wanneroo Wolves, SBL - 2009                                                     

Head Coach                    U18 WA Metro Women - 2008

Head Coach                    U20 QLD Men -2007 (Silver Medalist)

Assistant Coach             U20 Queensland Men - 2005 - 2006 (National Champions)

Head Coach                    U18 QLD North Women -2005

Head Coach                    U16 South QLD Boys - 2004

Assistant Coach             U16 South QLD Boys -2002 - 2003

SAMPLE OF: Articles / Publications / coaching cliniics / presentations

  • Guest Speaker - Dep. Sport & Recreation High Performance Scholarship Presentation – 2008
  • Clinics - NITCP Coaching – Western Australia “Mandurah, Kalgoolie, Eastersn Suns, Geraldton, Bunbury - 2007-08.
  • NIITCP International Study Tour Presentation, Department of Sport & Rec 2007
  • High Performance Programs Workshop Basketball WA SBL, State Team & NITCP Coach 2007
  • “4 Favourite Drills to Teach Motion” Winning Hoops Website, Lettiser Publications March/April 2005
  • “The Uptempo Game”Offensive & Defensive Transition, X’s and O’s Magazine Aug/Sept 2004
  • “Opals Professional Development Tour” X’s & O’s Magazine August/September 2004
  • “Interstate Coaching Review”, Chalk Talk Issue 1 2003
  • “The Importance of Stance when Defending Screens” Chalk Talk Issue 2 2004

Most admired International or USA Coach:  Mike Krzyzewski

Most admired International of USA Player:  Manu Ginobili

Most admired Australian Coach: Brian Goorjian

Most admired Australian Player:  Andrew Gaze

Most memorable basketball moment as a player: Getting my first, last and only dunk in my last high school game

Most memorable basketball moment as a coach: Getting to wear the Green & Gold at the World Uni Games, and my first NBL game against the South Dragons who had a couple of coaches with a few thousand games between them (Goorj and Molloy).

Mick’s most used coaching phrase: The way you are off the court is the way you are on the court


Basketball Crazy’s Interview With Mick Downer

BBC   Hi Mick, thank you for taking the time to talk with Basketball Crazy.

MD    My pleasure

BBC   Basketball Crazy recognises you as being an elite coach with potential to one day coach the national team and also continue to play a significant contribution to the development of players and basketball in general and it would be great if you could share with Basketball Crazy’s newsletter subscribers some of your thoughts on general basketball issues. 

MD    I'd be happy too.

BBC  Mick, your another popular person who seems to be as crazy about basketball.  Can you tell us why you are so involved in the sport from a career and personal point of view?

MD    Thanks for the popularity comment but that could be debatable depending on who you ask. I love the game, I think for all the issues that are spoken about our game and where it is at today (in Australia) at the end of the day the game will always, always be popular because it sells itself. People just love to play the game. All ages, genders, abilities it has no boundaries and everyone has a chance to play it.

BBC  What is it like to be an assistant coach in the NBL and can you talk about the highs and lows of the role? 

MD    The greatest thing about the NBL and it is like any other level is the challenges and experiences you share with the athletes. The margin for error is so small at the NBL level because you are working with such talented athletes. If you keep an open mind and a willingness to keep improving you'll learn so much by observing the behaviours and habits of players (at any level). Seeing players execute a play or defence collectively is gratifying as a coach and if you fail then it motivates you more for the next time. There are definitely many lows that you deal with though. It is a business and there is a lot at stake, I guess that's all part of the motivation and challenge to succeed.

BBC What do you believe are some of the key roles an assistant coach does and how much do you think you can influence a team or even a game?

MD    The AC role will vary from team to team depending on the skill sets of each of the coaches on staff. I think the best teams always have a staff that have a broad range of skills and different approaches to communication with players. I guess the most important thing is to be loyal & trusting (to the Head Coach) and have a great work ethic. The way that you deliver messages/instruction to the players may be different to the HC but the message has to be consistent. You have to be thick skinned as a coach and as an AC. You have to present your idea's to the HC but at the end of the day it's their perogative to go with it or not. Communicating with players and providing feedback during games is important. Confident players are great players so positivity is important and balancing this with holding your players accountable is a big challenge.

BBC What would a typical week of training look like for an NBL Assistant Coach?  Can you elaborate on what you would do each day?

MD    Pre-training meeting first up to to confirm the keys for the session.  Arrive early to rebound for guys. Training in the morning.  After training we de-brief practice, then plan the next day's training. Depending on the day we will have shooting, individuals or weights to run. Player meetings, scouting packages, video exchange, promotions and video editing are all common tasks. I also do a bit of the admin at the club regarding our team travel etc.  As for the week it would vary depending on number of games but if it were a Sat-Sat game we would go Mon, Tues, Thur, Fri training. Weights on Mon, Thurs, Individauls Tues and shooting each day. The week starts heavy and tapers leading into the game.

BBC  Are you keen to take the next step to be a NBL Head Coach or maybe a national or even international gig? 

MD    Long term I would love to be a head coach in the NBL but for now I am happy with where I'm at as an assistant coach. I want to keep learning and improving so if the opportunity does come then I'm prepared as best as I can be. The job is so challenging when your the big boss and the X's & O's is only a part of it. Player recruitment, management, communicating with agents, administration, owners, media and support staff if not an easy job. Obviously coaching positions at the pro level are cut throat too. You have to perform or your out. I love being involved with National programs too. The World University games was a great experience for me to learn about the different  styles of international play so I would love to continue being involved in some capacity with a National program.

BBC  What do you find are some of the key skills that players are deficient in when they approach an NBL Program hoping to be selected and what would you recommend players do to be more prepared for the challenges of playing in the NBL.

MD    Firstly your body is your livelihood so if you're a young player you have to work your ass off conditioning yourself appropriately for a lengthy senior career, so many young guys breakdown down as they don't have the functional base and the appropriate habits of preparation and recovery. Secondly I believe all players need to be all-rounders and be capable at both ends of the floor with obviously a specialty in a couple of area's. It is very difficult to have a pro career if you have a clear deficiency in your game as it will be exploited. Being able to contain your player - 1 v 1 accountability, understanding rotations, communication and rebounding are defensive cornerstones every player needs and offensively every player needs to be able knock down and open jumpshot and have a go to move and a counter to this move as a minumum.

BBC  In your opinion, what can Basketball Australia do to build the NBL back up to what it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s when there was huge crowds and live free to air television.

MD    People need to understand the difference of a "sports entertainment package" like the NBL and the grassroots and participation levels of the game. My understanding is the recent Crawford report indicated basketball as a healthy sport from a participation perspective, however the NBL is different and BA/NBL are doing the best they can in these difficult times. There maybe some merit in having a more regionalized league with the likes of Geelong, Hobart, Canberra, and a few teams from Sydney, Melbourne, a second Perth & Adelaide team, broadcast on FTA Regional TV. Make the league a home & away season with more teams and conference / non-conference play, rivalry games (ie Dockers & Eagles in the AFL) and a more cost effective schedule. Bring back the double header games. Although the closeness of the competition in this year's NBL has been great I don't feel that the NBL is really the underpinning program to our Boomers squad. Our players have been so successful internationally 80% of the Boomers squad plays oversea's. I see this trend continuing due to the great work of our junior elite programs (such as the AIS, NITP etc). We should also look to the South-East Asian and Asian markets for a shortened Superleague season, similar to soccer. Obviously if we continue to do what we have recently done then the results will continue to be the same so a shake up isn't necessarlity a bad thing.

BBC  As you are aware, more and more young Australian athletes are seeking scholarships in the USA College system.  You have personally assisted many players to achieve their college dream.  What do you see as so attractive for an Australian player to move to USA and attend college?

MD    The opportunity for your basketball skills being a catalyst to see the world as a young person while gaining an education is a great experience. Not many kids are NCAA Division 1 athletes but there are many levels for players of all backgrounds in the USA. I encourage players to explore this opportunity if tertiary education is something they want to consider. Unfortunately with the mass of numbers of Aussie kids in the states we do have depleted numbers of 18-23 yr old players domestically and this has had an impact on the ABA/SBL level of competition. Perhaps if there was an NCAA style competition in Australia where players can receive a scholarship to study and play basketball some would choose to remain closer to home. I know some WNBL, NBL and ABA clubs have links with universities but it is not done at a league level at this stage.

BBC What do you believe could be established in Australia to improve and develop basketball players that would be equal to if not better than what is offered by USA colleges?  What would your vision be?  Lets say hypothetically that you are given the responsibility to manage and establish any basketball development program in Australia with an appropriate budget and resources to match, what would you do?

MD    The opportunity to study abroad can never be replaced by a domestic alternative however I think their are improvements needed in the 18-23yr age bracket to give talented young players more options and also to underpin our National Leagues. I believe that there needs to be a National Youth League. The league needs to run concurrent with the NBL. This is the case in many European countries and clearly it is a successful model for countries like Spain, France etc... Each state and territory has an Academy of Sport this could be one avenue to explore or a University directly linked to each professional team where there is flexibility in study to accommodate the travel and training components of the athletes. Perhaps something as crazy as each pro team has a Education Coordinator on staff and all players must enrol in an on-line degree overseen by the coordinator and as such would allow the player to train full-time with the NBL team. Grades must be kept to keep their scholarship etc. I think we definately need to think outside the square moving forward.

BBC In your opinion what is  the outlook for both junior and senior national representative team over the next five years?

MD    I think the Senior program is looking great. Brett Brown is in a great position in the NBA with more Aussies in the League and D-League. I think there will be more Aussies make the big show over the next few years as well. This along with guys like Matt Neilson, Alex Maric, Aron Baynes, Brad Newley and Joe Ingles to name a few, playing in Europe will really help our National team as long as they have sufficient team preparation. As for the U19 Emu's I think they will continue to do well at the World's as long as the support for the AIS program continues. Our U17 program will always be a battle as we do not get the same international exposure as Eurpoean countries in the same age group. It would be great to see more resources provided to this age group. Perhaps more AIS scholarships for this age-group of athletes at least 18 months-2 years out of the World Champs.

BBC Basketball Crazy wishes to thank you for your time and effort in improving basketball in Australia and for participating in this interview.  Readers will hopefully find your responses interesting and thought provoking to enable others to join you in the ongoing development of basketball in Australia.  Thanks Mick.

MD    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you. Good luck with your website.

End of Interview