CHARLES Nix is realising his dream of now working full-time in basketball upon taking over as Joondalup Wolves women’s coach in 2019 and is looking for some stability himself while creating a program that not only wins but has a strong development focus.
It has been quite the journey over the last four years for Nix who moved on from coaching the Perry Lakes Hawks men at the end of 2016 to take on the job at the South West Slammers in 2017.
He had an exciting run with that Slammers team in the Men’s SBL as well before losing in three games of the quarter finals to eventual champion Perth Redbacks.
Nix then joined Women’s SBL ranks in 2018 taking on the job at the Redbacks and recruited well and coached strongly to turn them into a powerful force who only just fell short of a Grand Final, losing the semi finals in three games to the Mandurah Magic.
But coaching three different teams across three years while juggling work commitments and making time for his young family was taking a toll and what Nix was craving was the chance to work full-time in basketball if such an opportunity should present.
That happened at the Wolfpack and the combined role as Women’s SBL coach with the Wolves while working as basketball operations coordinator.
That is something Nix is enjoying throwing himself fully into, but in terms of his Joondalup Women’s SBL team, he has every reason to expect big things from them.
They had a down year in 2018 but that shouldn’t diminish the outstanding run they had with Craig Friday as coach which included a championship in 2013 and Grand Final appearance in 2016 where they went ever so close against the Willetton Tigers.
There are significant changes to the playing squad with the additions of Kayla Steindl and Amber Land to the front court, and Isabelle Miotti, Georgia Denehey and Mikayla Pirini to the back court.
Nix likes the squad he has helped put together and is looking forward to them clicking early on in 2019.
“We’re really confident that if things go the right way for us and if we stay healthy, keep working hard and build a really positive and accountable culture that we will be able to achieve some pretty special things with this group in the next few years,” Nix said.
“Hopefully it translates really quickly and we’re able to get ourselves back up there this year. I’m confident with the pieces we’ve added, we’ve recruited some real experience with Amber Land, Kayla Steindl and Mikayla Pirini, and some young and exciting players in Georgia Denehey and Izzy Miotti on top of retaining Chelsea Belcher and Amy Kidner.
“We’ve got some really exciting pieces and hopefully Shani will recover nicely from having her first child and come back in the second half of the year. We feel like we’ve got a good mix of experience and youth, and we’ve definitely got enough talent to be competitive. That’s really all we want to be from a starting point.”
The relationship that Nix developed coaching WNBL pair Steindl and Pirini at the Redbacks last year without question was a big reason on why they have joined him in the move to the Wolfpack.
Adding Steindl from the Perth Lynx and Pirini from the Adelaide Lightning Grand Final team are significant inclusions for the Wolves and Nix couldn’t be happier with their commitments.
“Obviously, it had a big part to do with it and I built a relationship with those girls and created a really positive culture and environment for them to learn and get better in,” he said.
“Hopefully they enjoy playing in the system that I run so those factors definitely contributed to them making the decision of coming up.
“Obviously when you have two super talented girls who are playing at the highest level in our country on your roster, it’s pretty exciting not just for the club because if could bring success.
“But for the younger players who get to play with them and learn from them by competing with them at training. We couldn’t be happier with the decision they’ve made to come and join us.”
The additions of Land from the Stirling Senators and Steindl to a frontcourt still featuring Wolves captain Amy Kidner will without question make that a great strength for Nix to work with, and he’s looking forward to seeing them come together.
“We understand that it is a major strength for us and Amy’s really surprised me with how athletic and powerful she is. She is our captain and her leadership and the way she’s embraced me and the other pieces coming in has been brilliant,” Nix said.
“To have not only talented players but these wonderful people genuinely want to help each other get better and achieve something special this year. There are some other really talented frontcourts in the league as well including Rockingham but we’re excited to see how we go against those other powerful line ups.”
But there’s little point having strong bigs without a good back court so Nix was delighted to bring in Denehey from the Slammers who’s also spent time with the Perth Lynx.
Add her to Pirini and Shani Caldwell (nee Amos) when she returns and the versality of Miotti from the Cockburn Cougars and Nix has reason to like the all-round squad at his disposal.
“We had specific targets when we were talking about roster development and we wanted to make sure we had a really good balance across the board. Obviously you need post depth which we have but we needed to make sure we shored up our point guard position first,” he said.
“When Shani had to step away last year, there was a real hole there and Tayla Pipes did an amazing job, but she was only 17 and has just turned 18 so she’s still a work in progress.
“That’s a really full on position for a young kid so we went out and got Georgia and Mikayla knowing that Shani would probably be back in the second half of the year to make sure we had people to control tempo and push pace when we need to.
“We are excited with the roster we’ve got with the depth and really good balance across the board, and I’m super excited about Izzy and her versality.”
While Nix is focused on getting his team ready to go for Round 1 and to be up and running to start the 2019 Women’s SBL season, he can’t help but feel grateful to everyone at the Wolfpack for this opportunity to realise his ambition of working full-time in basketball.
“I’m settling in really well. I’m working full-time for the Wolves now in a basketball operations role which is really positive for my family obviously,” Nix said.
“After last year this opportunity arose for me to get a three-year contract to coach the girls here which was too good to pass down. There’s no hard feelings from me towards the Redbacks and I want them to do really well, but this was the right move for me and my family.
“It’s definitely been an ambition of mine for a long time and it’s something I’ve especially been working towards the last few years. When this opportunity arose, I couldn’t turn it down.
“It’s really nice to get up every single day and enjoy coming to work, that’s a new feeling and I’m really fortunate to have that. I understand that not a lot of people can say that so I feel very fortunate and I’m going to do what I can to make sure this is a great situation for both me and the association up here.”
The fact that the Wolves are able to employ full-time staff to realise the club’s ambitions of becoming a community hub in the northern corridor based out of their new facilities at Joondalup’s HBF Stadium was also a significant reason why Nix was able to commitment himself to them.
“The infrastructure that the club has up here with the support in the background and the facilities definitely played a part in my decision. The club’s mantra is to be the ‘Destination of choice for basketball in Western Australia’ and they are doing everything they can to achieve that goal,” he said.
“It’s a different environment from any I’ve been in before and I’m definitely not taking anything for granted knowing how good of an opportunity this is for me.
“There’s plenty of support through all my programs from juniors through to the Women’s SBL and Men’s SBL. They do everything they can to help you achieve the goals you want to achieve. It’s a great place to be.”
Given the Lady Wolfpack missed the playoffs in 2018, Nix was keen to get the group on court as early as possible to start building on the game style and chemistry he wanted to create.
That means that everyone now can’t wait to get things underway on Friday March 15 away to the Perry Lakes Hawks.
“We started in October because of their season last year where they didn’t play playoffs, that allowed us to get in nice and early to start introducing the new system and trying to improve on an already pretty good culture while introducing new creases,” Nix said.
“We’ve been going for a long time so everyone is just at a stage now where they are ready to go. People are a little anxious, people are a little excited and some are nervous because everything is so new.
“But if we go in with the right attitude and work hard, and play to our strengths there’s no reason we can’t be pretty solid from the start.”