Redbacks in the blood for Horwood

FOR nearly 30 years now the Perth Redbacks have been a significant part of the life of Keith Horwood and he's not done with his contributions yet, already looking to get back involved as his grandson grows up.

Horwood first got involved at the Redbacks nearly 30 years ago when his sons began playing their junior basketball. They came right through the ranks at the Redbacks and Horwood got involved in coaching, and it was somewhat by chance he ended up coaching on the female side of things.

But Horwood would go on to lead the Redbacks under-20s side to a championship, take the Division 1 team to a Grand Final and then got them back to the SBL playoffs in 2002 after losing a big chunk of the group that had played in the past two Grand Finals.

That allowed Horwood to show just how capable he was as a coach at SBL level and at the same time his son Wade had broke through to play in the Men's SBL and went on to have a 117-game career throughout the 2000s before a stint as assistant coach.

Horwood did spend nearly a decade away from coaching the Redbacks in the Women's SBL, but he couldn’t resist the urge when the team needed him the most to come back and take over in 2015.

The Redbacks women had won just two games in 2014 with Horwood coming in with a rebuilding job that he always put a self-imposed three-year timeline on.

He got them up to five wins and a 10th place finish in 2015 before 10 wins and a quarter-final appearance in 2016. Then in 2017, the Redbacks again reached the finals and were clearly now a vastly more competitive outfit than the one Horwood took over.

Even now in the season and-a-half since, Horwood continues to support the Redbacks as much as he can because the club and the players he has coached will always be such a significant part of his life.

"The club has been a massive part of my life from when we started there in 1990 with the clubs playing under-10s. They then went through the grades at WABL at Redbacks and on to the SBL and then I got involved in coaching because of that. It's been a huge part of my life for a long time," Horwood said.

"I had the last couple of years off just because my oldest son had a baby and now he's a little boy now so I spend some time with him, but we still get along to Redbacks games and once he's a little bit older I'm sure I'll get involved in some way or another again."

While Horwood is enjoying the bit more of free time he now has that he's not coaching, he'd be lying if the itch isn’t still there to get back involved in basketball again on some level beyond the spectator role he's currently undertaking.

"My oldest son has just had a little boy who is about 17 months old now, little Xavier, and he's already throwing a little plastic ball in the ring so I can't wait to see if he wants to grow up and play basketball. You never know, that might provide me with the next opportunity to get back involved," he said.

"You can finish work now in the afternoon and have a beer and relax, and go home and put your feet up and watch a bit of TV without having to rush off to training or start doing your coaching work which occupies so much of your mind.

"It's the little things too when you have basketball too every night and your kids might ring up and the car's broken down or something's happened that you need to help with but you can't leave training or a game you are involved with.

"It's a juggling act with coaching and anyone who says it's easy is full of it. We do it because we love it, but it definitely has its challenges."

While Horwood is proud of what he achieved in his coaching career including being Women's SBL Coach of the Year in 2002, what will always mean more to him is the lifelong bonds you build along the way and even now with players he can sit back and watch who he coached.

"I still am in touch with the girls that I coached back in 2002 and I'm still in touch with some of them today. You do build bonds and become friends, and some of them I still see on a regular basis," Horwood said.

"You do take a bit of pride in the fact that they are still there playing and that you might have played a small part in their careers. I think I might have brought Denielle to the club, but the other girls were already there when I got there and they had other coaches before me.

"But you spend three years with them and that's a big part of your life. I still see those girls around the club now and enjoy having a chat to them. You just like to see them doing well."

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s is a time that Horwood will always especially treasure.

He enjoyed great success with the under-20s women's team and then the Division 1 team too at a time when the Redbacks women won a championship in 2000 and played in the Grand Final in 2001.

He then took over and did a tremendous job to right the ship and get them into the playoffs in 2002. It was a gradual growth through the ranks for Horwood to end up coaching at SBL level and he will always treasure those memories.

"I started off coaching in the under-10s developments with the boys and then I coached under-14s WABL and assisted under-16s and under-18s WABL boys before then the job to coach the under-20s girls team came up," he said.

"I coached that and we went undefeated that year and won a championship, and then I was approached to coach the SBL team the following year and it just went from there.

"It was a great time to be involved and at the time I was doing the under-20s job, I was coaching the Division 1 team too and the girls made the Grand Final that year before we got beaten by a pretty strong Perry Lakes team. That was a really great year."

While Horwood is glad he came back for his second stint coaching the Redbacks, there was just something about that era of his first stint that will never be matched.

"When I think back from when I coached the first time to the second time, back in the early days the sort of players who were around just at Perth around was amazing," Horwood said.

"Whilst the training probably wasn’t as hectic like it is these days with all the sports medicine and different trainers and that, we didn’t have any of that. Back then you would just have your manager, coach and assistant coach, and you basically had to do it all yourselves.

"Nowadays you have so many helpers, it's a big change in the way the league is run and how coaches' coach. I wouldn’t say it was basic, but it was pretty straightforward back then compared to now."

Winning the Coach of the Year Award in 2002 is something Horwood never set out to do, or even especially wanted or expected, but now 17 years later it's something he's proud to have been awarded even if he still gives more credit to those around him.

"You don’t coach for accolades like that, but when they come along you accept them. But a lot of it comes back to the players you've got and in that particular year we had a great bunch of players who were just doing the right kind of things," he said.

"That year we were 11-11 and made the finals coming from a pretty poor season the year before. You are only as good as your last game as far as coaching goes, but a lot of what the team puts out on the floor reflects on any recognition you get as a coach at the end of the day."

After almost a decade out of coaching at SBL level, Horwood got an unexpected phone call in the off-season coming into 2015 that caught him so off guard asking him to come back to coach the Redbacks in the Women's SBL that he quickly turned it down.

It was a big job too taking over a team that had won just two games in 2014, but with the benefit of some time to think about, Horwood felt that an experienced head might be just what the club needed for three years before he could pass the baton on.

In the end, a building year in 2015 and then two years in the playoffs shows that he more than lived up to his end of the bargain.

"I got a phone call from the club asking if I could come back to help them at a little bit and to be honest I wasn’t interested after being out of the game for 10 or so years," Horwood said.

"I had no intentions of doing it and i actually said no the first time but then I thought about it a bit more and thought I could go back to have another crack at it. So I said yes and I was back there at the club.

"A lot of how you take a team from the bottom and get them to make finals is by bringing players in and you can't do that if you don't have the whole club's support behind you.

"So I had the board and administration that allowed me to find some players to bring in to make us more competitive. Whilst you can take a little bit of credit, most of it comes back to having the club behind you to allow you to strengthen the team."

Horwood did spend his three years back coaching looking to build a succession plan too for when he departed. And while that hasn’t quite been followed through, it's hard to argue with the quality of coaches in Charles Nix and now Craig Allen that the Redbacks have gone with.

But outside of that, the core group of players Horwood built is largely still together and he deserves great credit for that.

"I don’t know what the club's perspective is on it and they obviously saw things differently than I did, but I had a couple of coaches there who I thought were going to take over and carry on with the girls," he said.

"I think the girls thought that too but things happen and the club sees different things than what you do and move in different directions. They seem to be back in contention now again this year which is great and I'm enjoying watching the team play."

While Horwood treasures his coaching memories in the Women's SBL, watching and coaching his sons, and then seeing Wade play in the SBL will always be memories that trump everything given it's family.

"It was awesome getting to watch my oldest son play in the men's SBL team and both of my boys played juniors right through at the Redbacks," Horwood said.

"It's great that you are involved coaching at the club and they are playing, it becomes a big part of your family's life. Apart from the fact it means you are out every night of the week and the only time you see your wife is when you cross paths on the occasional day off from basketball.

"But you forge friendships and that basketball life just becomes what you are used to. Having said that, once you get out of it for a couple of years, you realise there is a whole other world out there."




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Acknowledgement

Perth Redbacks Basketball Association acknowledges the traditional owners of the land on which the Association is located, the Wadjuk people of the Noongar Boodja, we pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. We respectfully acknowledge the continuing connection of the Noongar people to the lands and sea on Noongar Boodja.