High Roller - Ben Ettridge
In readiness for the upcoming SBL Finals series and, most importantly fresh from being the Head Coach of the Australian Rollers, Gold Medal World Championship performance in Incheon, I caught up with longtime opponent, SBL player and title winning coach in 2011 with the Wolves – Mr Ben Ettridge and here (below) is the result of our chat;
What some of your athletes/players you have coached may not understand was that back in the day you could play 'ball'. Here is your time to let them all know about your playing days! I can remember a strong guard hitting shots, fists clenched, firing his teammates up, scoring in bunches back in the day (also the odd run in here and there - which is what the fans want)! Describe your game as Ben Ettridge the player;
Shooting guard/Small forward - Paul Pierce springs to mind :). Was more of a scorer than a shooter, although did have a few games when the basket felt like a hoola hoop! I didn't mind mixing it up a bit - as a generous 6'2 in sneakers, going up against some of the biggest names in the game back then, if I didn't go out to compete every night I was going to get embarrassed.
*What is your greatest memory of playing in the SBL?
I have a few. Playing in the SBL GF with the Cougars was the biggest thing I had ever been a part of. A packed Challenge Stadium, getting to watch Cattalini, Erickson, Houston and Farrell go up against Vince Kelly and Fuds (Brian Fundingsland) was amazing....and then Gurry (coach Greg Gurr) puts me in with 1.30 left in the third! Talk about nerves!
Making the playoffs with Mandurah after so many years of being the easy beats of the league was a big highlight. We had a great team, and this time, to feel like I was a contributor was awesome. Playing alongside Josh Lee, Anthony Stewart, Gavin Vanderputten, Shawn King and CJ "Action" Jackson was great. We lost in 2 to the Flames, but we got there after years of hard work. I was proud of that.
And perhaps not with as much success, but playing at the Redbacks with a team that was stacked with ex NBL guys like Matt Earp and Jamie Baker and SBL legends like Nic Lackovic, Chris Kelly, Anthony Exeter and Shaun Stone taught me how to be a role player.
My playing career took me through some important stages of development. I had to fight and scrap in the start just to get a look in, to being able to play and cement a starting role, then on to the end where it was more about fulfilling a role and being a good team mate and leader.
*Who was the best player you played against on an SBL court and why?
Name an import from the 90's!
Greg Jelks, Jeff Andersen, Chris Sandle, James Fitch, Vince Kelly, Steve Williams, Doc Earle, Ricardo Boyd, Alan Erickson, Dan Hunt.
The best player I ever had to play against was Chris Sandle. There is no way he should have been in the SBL, and I'd love to know how he ended up here.
*Who was your toughest opponent and why?
The Perry lakes Hawks. Those guys were just tough, and my 200+ games just so happened to coincide with there dynasty. I remember being like a human pinball trying to run through screens chasing those guys around.
*Funniest thing you ever saw on an SBL court?
Firstly, a teammate of mine went down in a screaming heap in a game against the Wolves at Joondalup. He was literally wheeled off in the oldest wheelchair I have ever seen. Funnily enough, it's still at the stadium! Anyway, we thought he had broke his leg, he's in tears, clutching at his leg. 5 minutess later he comes sprinting out of the change room with two of the thinnest pieces of tape on his ankle (self taped) and runs up to the scorebench and subs back into the game. I'll never forget how hard Josh Lee laughed as we stood and watched!
Secondly, it was during a timeout in a game up in Kal while playing for the Magic. JT (Coach Triscari) was giving us a serve, as usual we're getting our butts handed to us. I put a towel over my head when he stopped talking, and next thing a stream of expletives comes into the huddle that would make Brad Kidner shudder! I pulled the towel off my head to see one of the locals who had been enjoying some of the great Kal "hospitality" almost in the middle of the huddle telling us exactly what he thought of us, and more than happy to "shower" us in his good will! Only in Kal...
*How has the SBL changed since Ben Ettridge the player became Ben Ettridge SBL coach?
The depth of talented teams! The league was very deep back then. NBL guys all played, and there wasn't as many guys heading off to college so the best guys between the age of 18-22 were all playing, and the ones who did always were back to play for part of the season.
Each team had two very good imports, the top teams usually a naturalised import and at least one Perth Wildcat.
Think about Swans - Roland Brooks, James Jackson, the Ellis brothers, Steve Davis etc, Slammers with Fitch, Reigner, Alan Black, Wade Bennett. The Redbacks with the Baker Boys, Earpy, CJ, Daryl Pace. The Wolves with Vinnie, Fundingsland, Richard Kvesich, Thommo, the Cougars with Housty, Al Erickson, Farrell, Cattalini, Troy Clarke, Forsyth.
Even the aversge teams were loaded! Willetton couldn’t make the finals and they had arguably one of the greatest players of all time - Jeff Anderson, being backed up by Warren Hampson, Simon Parker, Slinger Winter, Steve Charlton, Brad Ramsay etc.
When I came back to coach, you knew Lakeside were the team to beat. That was it. Build a to that can beat Lakeside, and you can win the league. It was a simple formula.
You also had to earn an SBL gig, nowadays it's seen as a right that you get to suit up and play straight away. It's an SBL contract, not an NBA contract! I'm not a fan of that. An apprenticeship needs to be served. Kids who don't want to play D League, or ride the pine to me don't have what it takes to be successful. The hardest thing today is teaching patience as everything is so readily available.
*2011 saw you win a title with the mighty Wolfpack. Describe that moment, having waited so long for an opportunity to win it all.
I was so happy to bring another title to one of the inaugural teams in the SBL. I love the club, they gave my old man his start in coaching. I was so happy to repay Mary and Van (Kailis) and all the people involved in the club for all the years of hard work and sacrifice. For me, that's what it was all about, I was just lucky enough to be a small part of the success.
*Your father Len has had a long involvement in the development of basketball in this state. What level has his impact had on your own coaching/development?
He is my inspiration and my mentor. He still to this day could be coaching, but he prefers to just watch now and play with his three grand kids. His attention to detail and never say die attitude is something I am proud to say he has passed on to me.
*Other than your Father's influence did you always want to coach Wheelchair Basketball athletes OR was it a collection of things that led you to coaching Wheelchair Basketball?
I think, and this answers one of the previous questions about describe yourself as a player, I was a frustrated coach when I played. I was always thinking and trying to work out ways to be more successful as a team. When I finished up playing, I wanted to coach, just not with or against the guys I had just finished playing with or against, not straight away, so was looking for other opportunities. The gig with the Wheelcats came up, so I applied and got it. Initially, I was only going to do it for 1 season, and then try and get back into the SBL fold. And then as they say, the rest is history. 4 championships, a stint in Italy coaching professionally and two Paralympics and 2 World champs later, I'm still here!
*In terms of X's and O's, without giving away too many trade secrets, what has been one of the most successful strategy you have bought into the Wheelchair basketball game?
Thinking outside the box. There are many similarities and some slight differences, but the game is the same. Like coaching men and women, wheelchair has its own specifics.
There are some things at the start that people said wouldn't work, and in the beginning they didn't. It has taken a development process to get the thinking, skill set and also the athleticism. But now, we run multiple half court defences, multiple pick and roll defense, side line plays, baselines plays, transition offense, man sets, zone sets, late clock, early clock, all the fun stuff that coaches love!
*Wheelchair Basketball does not get the exposure it deserves particularly with the recent success (The team won World Championship Gold in Incheon recently). You have stars such as Shaun Norris, Brad Ness and Justin Everson in the team. What NBA players would you compare them to, relative to the impact they have in Wheelchair Basketball?
LBJ. - the best player in the world. Inside, outside. The most dominant force in the game right now, and he's 28. He is just entering his prime.
Old school Charles Barkley. I have never coached, in any form of basketball, a greater warrior. Greg Hire comes close, but Justin is just relentless in everything, from Pee tests in the morning to triple doubles in the game, he wants to win.
Shaq. Biggest, baddest man on the court. The best team mate off the court. At 39, he still has what it takes, and knows how to win titles. A great leader of men.
*You have coached in every major tournament and with different teams over your Wheelchair Basketball journey. The trophy cabinet is well stocked - what is left for you as a coach to achieve with your athletes?
As a coach you are never satisfied. You can't be. I drive these guys for excellence in everything that we do as as individuals and as a team. Our underpinning program's are growing. I want an u17,u19 and u23 team underneath the Rollers. I want full-time staff working within the program.
I WANT A MAJOR SPONSOR OF THE PROGRAM!!!
My goal is to walk away from to the program, whenever that may be, and it continues to dominate for the next 10-20 years. That will be the legacy of this Rollers team.
*Are there any upcoming tournaments for you and the boys?
We are taking a Tokyo 2020 development team to Japan in November, we then have a couple of tours and camps in 2015 leading in to our qualifier for Rio in late 2015, and then then the Rio Olympics in 2016.
3 Words or Less
Mandurah Magic Years
Persistant, Consistent, Resilient
Haha! Love Billy!
Teaching High Schoolers
Winning the World Champs
So there you have it SBL land! From toughing out a basketball apprenticeship amongst the Willeton and Cockburn SBL programs to becoming an SBL Champion and world leading Wheelchair Basketball coach, ‘Etto’ has not had a golden handshake given to him. These results were no fluke and the ideals of hardwork, innovation, a determined mindset and lifelong mentors have paved the way for basketball success on a global scale. To the young guys coming through the message is clear – do your time and work harder than you have ever worked to get to your basketball goals and be patient!
For the corporate heavyweights and business entities reading this. Why not align yourselves to a world champion program and support the Perth Wheelcats and the Ettridge led Australian Rollers as they embark on their next few major campaigns going into the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. For anymore information in regards to either program or if you wish to contact Ben and discuss a possible sponsorship opportunity then please email email@example.com