Wednesday / 1 / June

Boomers’ guard set to take the next leap

Australian basketball star Chris Goulding has been bouncing around the world for ten years.

Since 2006, he has played over 170 NBL matches, enjoyed a couple of seasons with clubs in Italy and Spain, and even spent time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks in NBA Summer Leagues.

Now, the 27-year-old is preparing to leap into his next assignment – the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Goulding is part of a 17-man Australian squad that will be trimmed to 12 by July 11 and will feature Aussie NBA stars Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova.

“Everyone is all over the world right now but we will come together on July 5,” he said.

“There will be a camp in Melbourne, we’ll have training for a few days and it will be pretty competitive before they pick the final team.

“Once they have picked it, we will play a couple of warm up games before we fly out to Brazil.”

While the excitement of being part of a Boomers team tipped to medal at the Games is building, Goulding is also looking forward to his return to Australian shores later in the year.

He recently extended his playing contract with NBL franchise Melbourne United for two more years and is keen to reunite with head coach Dean Demopolous.

“Right now I’ve had six months with him and I’ve just signed on for another two years, so hopefully we can win a couple of championships by the end of it,” he said.

“There’s definitely some things that I know Dean has learnt along the way that I need to learn off him and I really respect his basketball journey so far.

“He’s got a lot of experience, he’s coached high-level US College basketball and he’s been in the NBA, so he’s seen basketball all over the world and been a part of good programs all over the world.

“For the past season and the coming two, he’s going to be a massive part in my career and development as a player.”

The Boomers’ shooting guard quickly identifies leadership as an area where he can elevate his game under Demopolous.

“There are always areas you can improve as a player and I’m getting to the stage in my career where I’m a little bit older so I’m looked upon to lead a bit more,” he said.

“I think a big part of our dialogue going forward will be how I can become a better leader and how I can make my teammates better.

“That’s the thing with basketball; it really is about how you can get the team coming together and gelling to make each other better.”

Demopolous echoes Goulding’s self-assessment.

“As he matures and becomes a focal point for the franchise, it’s about leading others because the better the rest of the players look, the better he will look,” he said.

“Making plays for others on the basketball court right now is something I think he’s very gifted at, and can further improve given the proper circumstances and the proper environment.

“And that’s where I think my job comes in, by creating a team with him that gives him that element.

“It can be very hard for a gifted player to trust a lesser gifted player to do certain things, so we’re trying to get this roster as good and as balanced as we can so we can help create that type of trust where it facilitates winning.

“I think Chris plays a huge part in that.” The American career-coach who hails from Philadelphia said part of Goulding’s growth will be taking on added responsibilities within the team structure.

“I try to involve players as they get older, I try to make sure they own what they are doing,” he said.

“I try to get them to run practices as much as they can, huddles, time outs, so they are actively coaching along with playing so they learn what needs to be done.

“It’s a bit like raising children; you want your children to grow up to become adults that can look after themselves and don’t need you to thrive, and the same with your team and players.”

So for Demopolous, a good coach essentially tries to make himself redundant by empowering players.

“I have a reoccurring dream where I’m the coach and I can’t get to the arena – it’s actually the old Chicago stadium,” he said.

“It’s the kind of dream where there’s all kinds of weather, storms, fog, you know, and I finally get there and the game is over and we’ve won.

“Somebody recognises me and says ‘coach, what happened’ and I say ‘I couldn’t get there, trees were falling, lightning struck, I hit a deer’, you know, all the BS, and they say ‘you must be worried coach, your team was great, they don’t need you’, but I look at him and I say ‘that’s how good a coach I am!’

“It’s a little embellished that dream, but that’s your job as a coach, you serve them so they don’t need you.” Having stints with different franchises throughout his career means Goulding also knows a thing or two about what makes a good coach.

“I’ve been involved in quite a few teams in quite a few places and I definitely think that it’s easier for you to perform when you have a coach that you’re on the same page as,” he said.

“So I think a bit of relatability to each other and a common work ethic is really important.

“You don’t want to see, for instance, when the coach doesn’t work as hard as the player, or vice versa.”

And when dealing with different people, it’s about knowing the person behind the player.

“Every player is different, some will open up more, some would prefer the coach to not know too much about them at all, they just show the basketball side of things and for them that’s enough,” Goulding said.

“But that’s why the coaches have the hard jobs, they deal with a lot of different personalities on a daily basis and have to navigate that, find a way through and how to connect the best, that’s almost half the battle with coaches, it’s a really difficult job.”

Demopolous adds:

“It depends on their ages; for instance, you approach a high school player different than a professional player, and you approach the better professional players different to the younger ones, it depends on where they are in their careers, and also depends a lot on personality.

“The fact of the matter is for a coach that’s your job, you’ve got to learn about your players, you’ve got to find out what makes them tick.

“I’ve got to try to figure these guys out, in relation to them figuring me out too, it’s a relationship, it’s my job to get the best out of them, whatever that is, so you’ve got to get to know them.

“The more layers you understand, the more chance you have of getting what you need done because it creates trust, and that’s part of mentorship when you think about it.

“The trust is really important in this whole team and athlete thing.”

For now though, it will be up to Goulding to make his own way with the Boomers in Brazil.

And if they do manage to secure a medal, you can bet he will be bouncing around just as much as he has this last decade.

Header image via: The Mercury