300 WNBL games for coaching master Tom Maher

300 WNBL games for coaching master Tom Maher

Eight-time Women’s National Basketball League championship winning head coach Tom Maher will lead the Bulleen Boomers in his 300th WNBL game on Sunday afternoon, when his side faces off against the AIS at the Veneto Club in Melbourne.

Having accomplished almost all there is in the world of women’s basketball coaching, Maher reaches the milestone with a record of 235 wins and 64 losses across a WNBL head-coaching career that began in 1981.

Of his eight WNBL championships, Maher won five of them with Nunawading in 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1988. He also won a championship with the Perth Breakers in 1992, one with the Canberra Capitals in 2002/03 and most recently with the Bulleen Boomers in season 2010/11.

On the eve of his milestone, Maher looked back at the highlights of his career, ranking his successes with Nunawading as the first thing that comes to mind.

“Nunawading, that team was really a super, super team,” said Maher.

“So I probably look at not just the one title, but the run of titles we had with that team, how good they were. They were a great team in every sense, the perfect team.”

Maher is a four-time WNBL Coach of the Year winning the award in 1987 with the Nunawading Spectres, in 1992 with the Perth Breakers and in both 2009/10 and 2010/11 with the Bulleen Boomers.

He said he has enjoyed the last two and a half seasons with the Boomers, which has brought great success for the club, but also the players individually.

“It’s a fun league and it’s a good environment at Bulleen,” said Maher, who has seen some of Australian basketball’s up and coming stars develop under his watch.

“Hanna Zavecz came out of nowhere, Rachel [Jarry] came out of nowhere. They were players we were able to work with.

“So it’s been very rewarding to work with them, and see how they’ve developed as players.”

Asked about his specific coaching style and philosophies, Maher said one thing had remained consistent throughout the years.

“I’ve always been a team-oriented person, and it’s occurred to me in later years that I think that’s been a reason why I’ve been successful,” said Maher.

“And I’ve never been involved for myself. It’s never been about me, and I think that comes through and I think the players appreciate that.”

Maher has seen the WNBL develop throughout his career, and believes the talent of the top teams in the ‘old days’, before the Australian superstars began their exodus to overseas leagues, was on equal footing to the top teams now.

“The Australian players were all there,” he said of the WNBL’s early years, “but the depth of the league is much stronger now.

“I think in those days the top four teams are comparable to the top teams now, certainly Nunawading was. They would be able to compete with the top teams today, if not be on equal footing,

“But the next group of teams, that’s where the depth of the league has really improved.”

Maher is also currently the head coach of the Great Britain Women’s National Basketball Team, preparing them to host the 2012 Olympics, after a long career of leading national teams in Olympic Games.

Maher led the Australian Opals to their first ever Olympic medal in the sport of basketball, when the Opals won Bronze at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Then, playing in his home country, Maher helped the Opals claim a silver medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

Maher then led the New Zealand Women’s team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, before leading the host nation China to fourth place at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Maher is a Life Member of the WNBL and in 2006 he was inducted to the Basketball Australia Hall of Fame.