A Q&A with Phoenix head coach Simon Mitchell
Phoenix Media sat down with South East Melbourne Phoenix head coach Simon Mitchell to get an insight into his basketball background, his thoughts on the current playing roster and much more.
Phoenix Media: Simon, can you talk us through your basketball background and your history with the game?
Simon Mitchell: My basketball background is here in Melbourne. I grew up in Greensborough and played the EDJBA (Eastern District Junior Basketball Association) as a young fella. I ended up playing my representative basketball at Melbourne Tigers through until seniors. I ended up crossing over to Bulleen for a year with Brett Brown and then I went over to college. After that, I got into coaching.
PM: When did you stop playing?
SM: My body gave out on me pretty early and I finished playing at 23. The ankles were shot, the back was bad, the knees were gone and the attitude was absolutely horrible. I wanted to be in touch with the game because I love the game dearly and I knew when getting up in the morning became really tough, it was time to give it up and I got into coaching.
PM: So your playing days were over, and then you were into coaching. What was your first coaching job?
SM: My first coaching job was straight into senior mens at Diamond Valley and I was there for six seasons before I crossed over to the Melbourne Tigers as an assistant under Al Westover, I actually replaced Dean Vickerman when he went to the Singapore Slingers. I was with (the Melbourne Tigers) for a couple of years, but then I got into club land and I worked at Sandringham, Knox, Frankston and then back to Melbourne United as an assistant there for the past five years. Here I am now at the South East Melbourne Phoenix.
PM: How excited were you to be given your first head coaching role in your hometown?
SM: Getting the head coaching role here at the Phoenix is exciting. I’ve spent a lot of time here in the South East with Knox and Frankston. I understand the basketball out there, I understand what people really like to see in their basketball, and the values and beliefs that I share in the game. It’s exciting, and the chance to start something from scratch is just unbelievable and a once in a lifetime opportunity.
PM: Were there moments when you thought this opportunity would never come?
SM: I always felt that the head coaching role was going to come one day, I didn’t know where, but I’m really glad that it happened in my hometown.
PM: A lot of coaches have different theories on the craft, so what is your main aim as head coach this season?
SM: I feel like I still see the game through a player’s eyes. I still have a memory of what I wanted as a player, and I feel like as a coach, my job is to provide that. I want to give guys a little bit of freedom, but my job, and the coaching staff’s job is to get the players to become the best version of themselves on and off the floor.
PM: Earlier you mentioned the basketball values and beliefs here in South East Melbourne, what do you think those are?
SM: There’s no nonsense in the south east of Melbourne. It’s 25 per cent of Australia’s basketball population; not Victoria’s, Australia’s. Everyone knows there hoops here and they’re going to respect a team that goes out there and plays the right way. My idea is to get players that play the right way, get players that are tough and hard, and guys that want to put it all on the line. That’s from our coaching staff through to everyone in the front office and our players, because everyone’s going to be out there and playing hard.
PM: Did you have those beliefs in mind when you were putting together the playing group?
SM: When we were building the team, we used those identifiers of toughness. If you go through the roster with your Adam Gibsons, your Ben Madgens, your Dan Trists and Mitch Creeks, these guys are all big bodies and are pretty tough. They play the game the way that I want to see the game played. We watched the Playoffs last year, Perth versus Melbourne, with guys like Tom Jervis and Jesse Wagstaff dropping Casper Ware on the floor, and to me, that was the difference between the two teams in the playoffs. We want to make sure we’ve got plenty of those guys that will firstly, not get laid out on the floor, but secondly, put someone on the floor when they need to.”