BRINGING some stability with the aim of long-term success is what John Triscari is aiming to bring to the South West Slammers as new men’s coach and having Michael Lay and Brian Voelkel back to build around is just what he was after.
It has been a bit of a stop-start process for the Slammers in recent years. They were getting things on track nicely under Ty Harrelson reaching the Grand Final in 2015.
It was then a tough 2016 campaign under Michael Van Lit before Charles Nix arrived in 2017 leading them to the quarter finals where they lost in a dramatic series to the eventual champion Perth Redbacks.
But Nix moved on after that season and it was another rebuilding season in 2018 leading now into the experienced and well-respected Triscari taking over for 2019 with the goal of building something over multiple seasons to provide some stability.
Ultimately Triscari wants to coach a team to the SBL championship and that’s his goal taking over the job with the Slammers, but he knows that might take some time to build and he’s more than prepared to put that work in.
“I really enjoy being back coaching at SBL level and it was always my intent to do that. I’m glad I am getting the chance to do that with the men,” Triscari said.
“It’s something to tick off the bucket list if you like. I’ve coached an Australian side in wheelchairs and did reasonably well at that, but I really want before I finish to be part of a winning side in an SBL championship. That’s the driving force.
“Hopefully we’ve put together a two to three-year plan with the Slammers now that we can build on. We will have a few guys travelling down from Perth, which is good, and we’ve had some really good sessions already.
“We got together one weekend to have a bit of a get together and barbeque to work on some culture stuff, and they are just really good guys to work with. That keeps the passion going if you enjoy the people you are working with.”
While the departures of Clive Weeden and Travis Durnin will take some replacing for the Slammers, Triscari’s main goal when appointed to the role was to ensure that both Lay and Voelkel committed to return.
Having Lay as his point guard and Voelkel as the ultimate all-round forward who can score, run the offence, distribute, rebound and defend gives him plenty to build around.
The Slammers have added a shooter and slasher in Tyler Livingston as the second import while Chris Douglas returns to help offset the departures of Weeden and Durnin.
Ultimately having Lay and Voelkel to build around was exactly what Triscari was hoping for.
“The plan is to build something long-term. There are a lot of young kids and that’s all they want to do, and I’m pretty lucky that we have retained Michael Lay who lives in Bunbury,” Triscari said.
“We’ve got Brian Voelkel back and there’s a bit of stability and wiser heads there. I’ve picked up another American too who is a three-point shooter. He has already fitted in like a glove so I’m hopeful that we can do pretty well.
“I think those two guys give us a great starting point. I’ve always liked the way that Michael Lay plays and Brian’s just about the perfect American.
“He almost averages a triple-double over an entire season. Then when we’ve added Tyler Livingston who is more of a slasher type player, honestly I think we’ll scare a few teams this year.”
Douglas was outstanding in the Slammers’ playoff push in 2017 so is a big inclusion back in 2019 while Triscari is confident some spare part signings like James Allen, James Goodlad and Charles Kativu will be able to make handy contributions along with the good crop of teenagers.
“Dougy is back as well and we’ve got a young guy called Brody England while I’ve picked up James Goodlad whose folks still live in Bunbury,” Triscari said.
“I’ve picked up another kid called James Allen who is bloody tough and Charles Kativu so in a lot of cases they are cast off type players who haven’t quite made it at other clubs in Perth.
“But they are fitting together really well and then I have four 16-year-olds who train with us once or twice a week with us who will play in our D-League. We’ve ended up with a squad of almost 20 and you can’t ask for much more than that.
“Even though a lot of kids in the country play basketball as a past time, but their real passion is AFL footy and the South West league is very strong traditionally.
“It’s been a good breeding ground for AFL players so we are competing with that and hockey is the other sport that’s pretty big. But I’m looking forward to the season with the group we have together.”
Triscari is also glad that by two weeks into the season he will have his full squad available as he embarks on a journey coaching a Men’s SBL team that he has been craving for the opportunity to do after a year out of the league following his stint leading the Cockburn Cougars women into the playoffs.
“I’m pretty hopeful that from the start we’ll be just about full strength. We’ll be missing Brian for probably the first two weeks and he’ll be ready by the end of March,” Triscari said.
“Two weeks into the season we should have our full squad together and you can’t complain about that. It’s just now about fitting all the pieces of the puzzle together.
“I actually got excited when we drew with Mandurah in a scratch match just because you get to see rewards for the work you’ve been putting in and that they are starting to take effect. Seeing that progress is what really motivates me and that’s where this group is at.
“It’s a bit of the unknown and I guess we don’t know really what other clubs have done until the season proper starts. I’m sure other clubs are feeling good too but I think we will be around the mark and that’s what we’re aiming to be.”