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In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Cairns Taipans’ head coach Mike Kelly joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss turning it around from one year to the next, plus how to install a competitive team culture and empower your players.
Coach Kelly is the current head coach of the Cairns Taipans of the NBL in Australia. His Cairns Taipan team went went from 6-22 in his first season, to 16-12 in his second season. He began his tenure with the club in 2018 as head coach. In just his second season Kelly tripled the team’s wins and lead the team to the NBL semi-finals. In the 2019 season, he won the NBL Coach of the year award and established the Taipans as a contender. Prior to coaching with the Taipans, Mike Kelly was a successful associate head coach in the NBL with Melbourne United. Kelley made a major impact in Melbourne and had an influence on the team’s 2017 title run.
Before Cairns and Melbourne, Mike Kelly served as an assistant with several other teams around the NBL. He had served as an assistant with the Wollongong Hawks in 2006 and with the Townsville Crocodiles in 2013. In between this time, Kelly was an assistant at Utah Valley University and Vanguard University.
Mike Kelly also had a decorated career as a player in the NBL. He was in the league for 15 years, was a two-time NBL Defensive player of the year, and an NBL championship winner. This makes him one of the very few to ever win an NBL championship as both a player and a coach.
His near 30 years of experience in the NBL has made him one of the most knowledgeable and brightest coaches in the NBL. Coach Kelly just began his 3rd season at the helm with Cairns with hopes of taking home the NBL Championship once again.
Mike Kelly Cairns Taipans Australia NBL Basketball Playbook:
“The guys that signed up with us . . started to establish something and so we battled through to the end . . and that’s that’s what started . . the base for our group here.”
“I think your philosophy is ever-evolving, or hopefully at least you’re improving and building on it. And for me that first year, I gave our guys a lot of freedom offensively.”
“Everybody who competes has a chance to play. . we had to compete every day, in everything we did . . I really believe that was a turning point, not so much that we didn’t compete before, but it became our cornerstone to compete every time we step on the floor and not just say it, but do it.”
“I was really encouraging to our guys . . to really look to attack. I think I learned that it’s hard to give guys freedom and not explain well enough what you want them to do. So we were able in this second year, to give the guys freedom, but just a little more structure, not so much in transition, but in the secondary [break].”
“As a group, [we wanted] to establish how we wanted to play, and then individually to sit guys down and define their roles better. And for me, that was a really big one . . So we had some good discussions with every player on the team about what I thought their role was and what they thought their role was. And then what was best for the team in the end.”
“I really like our team to be edgy, and to compete when we scrimmage or do a drill. So we pretty much play everything to a score.”
“I go back to role definition . . and I think the guys realized that and it just kind of built from there when guys realized that they were playing for each other and not for themselves.”
“One way [to establish roles] was just having group film sessions and establishing exactly what we wanted to happen in certain situations. The other was just sitting here in my office individually with guys and telling them what I expected and listening to them on what their expectations were. Because this was a new group, it was being established early and it was a continual conversation.”
“What I was taught was, you do the thing that’s most important in front of you, and you keep it simple . . there’s only so many things you can do and so many people’s thoughts and advice you can take and then distill it down to what’s important for your team.”
“We’ll keep a mindset . . ‘we don’t feel pressure, we apply pressure.’ We’ll try to keep that mindset as we go forward to play with a little chip on our shoulder and to be in attack mode.”
1:00 – Next Level
4:00 – On the Right Track
7:00 – Establishing Culture and Philosophy
11:00 – Offseason Priorities
16:00 – Competitiveness
18:30 – Ideal Personnel
20:30 – Winning Mindset
24:00 – Right Direction
26:00 – Establishing Roles
30:00 – Multiple Conversation
32:00 – Keeping it Simple
36:00 – Improving Individually
39:00 – Game Film Discussions
43:00 – Coaching
46:00 – Conclusion
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