The Sixers, more formally known as Adelaide 36ers is the sole representative of South Australia in the NBL (National Basketball League). While most of the action happens on the court, let’s take our time reviewing the individuals who have led the team behind the court lines and how they contributed to the Sixers’ NBL journey.
The First Coach
The first head coach to step in to guide the then-rookie team was Mike Osborne (1982–1984). He did three years for the Sixers for which the team has seen some notable growth and was able to finish at the upper list during the season.
When the West Adelaide Bearcats’ dropped off from the league, the team garnered significant addition to their arsenal as previous Bearcats joined the Sixers.
The First Championship Title
Along with the newly merged squad, a new head coach was commissioned to replace Osborne. Ken Cole (1985-1986), who later earned the Coach of the Year title led the team towards their first championship win.
Major Team Transformation
Between seasons, West Adelaide Bearcats dropped off the league due to financial constraints. The Sixers absorbed several well-performing Bearcats and faced the 1985 season with a merged bench of players.
In the same year, Olympic representative Ken Cole stepped in as head coach. The 1985 Sixers team consisted of imports, rookies, and veterans.
They worked their way up to the finals where they faced the Brisbane Bullets. It was a predicted win in the semi-finals but despite stellar scores during the earlier stages, they failed short of the crown after two matches.
The 1986 Championship Title
Going into the next season, the coach Cole continued to assign new positions strategically and the key players responded in kind. The team came out undefeated in their hometown matches and bagged the Championship title with a sizeable difference in wins from the runner-up.
The Sixers landed several spots in the Semi-finals and Finals after winning the championship in 1986. It was not until 1998 that they got hold again of the top spot of the season.
Adelaide’s Sixers in the Present
Today, the club is currently owned by the notable tycoon, Grant Kelly, who swears on continuing South Australia’s passion for basketball. The Sixers had undergone much improvement under Kelly’s custody and continue to impress the public with their performance both locally and overseas.
Their home games are held at Adelaide Entertainment Centre, with tickets are being sold out regularly for Sixers matches. Being the sole representative of the region, the team receives much love and support from their local fans.
A Slight Decline
The following years have been less impressive years for the Sixers as they drop off play-offs in the early stages and lose key players to team trades. Gary Fox (1987-1989) headed the coaching team and Don Shipway followed suit for the next two years (1990-1993).
Don Monson (1993) coached for a year where the 36ers saw some improved results as they reached the quarter-finals before ending the playoff season.
A former NCAA coach in the name of Mike Dunlap (1994-1996) lead the team in 1994. They were able to participate in the grand finals during his first year as head coach.
Several senior players left the team the next year, allegedly due to Dunlap’s coaching preference. In spite of gaps left by the more experienced ballers, the team kept its good form in the subsequent years.
Dave Claxton (1997) held the position temporarily in 1997 before handing the position officially.
Phil Smyth Era and Three Championship Titles
Phil Smyth (1998-2008), a former player came and stayed for 10 years with the team as the head coach. Smyth secured three championship titles under his on-court direction. He helped the team dominate their matches with his strictness and vigor.
The torch was passed to Scott Ninnis (2008-2010) but the season outcomes fell short compared to the team’s recent playing standards.
Marty Clarke (2010-2013) took over the position but failed imports and other events made it hard to produce better results.
Start of an Upsurge
Adelaide Sixers hired Joey Wright (2013-2020) as head coach and signed several key players into the team in 2013. The following years have brought favorable changes and had given the team several opportunities to earn the title in the finals.
Wright left 36es in 2020 and was replaced by Conner Henry (2021-2023), a notable coach from the NBA D-Leagues. Henry signed a 3-year contract and has since expressed his excitement to be a part of the club.
Pushing Forward Through Changes
Sixers’ current chairman and owner, Kelley Grant remarks that Henry’s appointment was due to the impeccable growth and transition he displayed from being a player to being a recognized coach. Grant clearly conveys his desire to bring the club to new heights since its acquisition in 2017.
The club, being established in 1982, makes them one of the older teams in the league. They have undergone several mix-ups in composition and a few changes in the coaching lineup. The history that comes with the team has given its fans more reason to root for them.